Good media interview

News media interview? Read these tips to be a great spokesperson.

Great news! Your company scored a news media interview, a great chance to get your company’s story heard. And they’ve chosen you as the spokesperson. Now what? 

You clearly want to do a great job. But you also have a full-time job and life. On top of all that, many people get nervous before a media interview. 

To help you shine in that interview, I’ve compiled this checklist. Bonus: many of these tips work when you have to give a presentation too. 

  1. Follow your company’s guidelines.

    Your company is trusting you to represent them in the media. Make sure you speak with the PR or marketing department to ensure you’re aware of any guidelines you must follow. Most organizations will likely send a communications representative to the interview with you. This person can also help you prepare for the interview. You may want to practice with them if you are nervous about the interview.
  2. Be prepared.

    Your organization is relying on you to get its key messages to your audience. Making, and using, a one-page Message Map, can help you prepare quickly. A message map helps you see what to say, so you say what you mean. It also helps you get back to your key message if a reporter asks you an off-topic question. 
  3. Be brief.

    Most print media interviews last about 20 minutes, and for TV they can be much, much shorter. You might only get a quick quote or sound bite. So make sure you can state your message concisely and clearly. You can find more tips on how to be brief here
  4. Be helpful.

    Remember that while you are of course talking to the reporter, you are also talking through the reporter to reach your target audience. The reporter is the first step in getting your message heard. For example, if the reporter asks you a question about a topic where you are not the expert, but you know someone who is, then refer the reporter to the correct source. The more helpful you are, the more likely you are to be quoted in the story. And the more likely you are to be asked back for future interviews.
  5. Be on time.

    Yes, this sounds like a no-brainer, which is why I’m surprised at how often spokespeople show up late or start an interview by saying, “I only have 10 minutes.” Just like the rest of us, reporters have deadlines. And with the ability to publish instantly online, those deadlines are often “now.” If you show up late, you risk being left out of the story. 
  6. Be relatable.

    You may be thinking, “What does that mean? Of course I’m relatable.” And if your organization has chosen you to be a spokesperson, you most likely are. You also are probably an expert in the interview topic. Which means the reporter and the story’s audience may not know as much as you do. Be sure to use words everyone will understand. Use analogies if your subject is complex. Why? Because research shows people can’t picture abstract words and concepts. So, if you’re talking about hurricane strength, instead of trying to describe it in Watts or Joules, you could say, “Hurricanes release the energy of 10,000 nuclear bombs.”  Now your audience instantly understands how powerful hurricanes are.
  7. Stay on topic.

    Sometimes a reporter will use the interview to ask you a question about a completely different topic. If you aren’t prepared to speak on that topic, don’t. Explain that you prepared to speak on the agreed-on topic, and that you would need to schedule a different time if the reporter would like to discuss something else. Keep your voice friendly, but be firm.
  8. Always close with your key message.

    I’ve facilitated hundreds of media interviews during my career, and 90% of the time, at the end of the interview, the reporter will say, “Thank you so much for your time. Do you have anything else to add?” The answer to this is ALWAYS “yes.” This opening gives you one more time to get your key message heard. I have some clients who complain that doing this makes them feel like they are repeating themselves. Repetition is good. In fact, research shows that repeated messages are perceived as more valid than messages heard only once. 

Following these tips, along with some preparation, will help you succeed as a news media spokesperson.