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.
Tips when giving a presentation or in an 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.
Following these tips, along with some preparation, will help you succeed as a news media spokesperson.
- 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.
- Be brief. Most print media interviews last about 20 minutes, and for TV they can be much, much shorter. And you might only get a quick quote or sound bite. So make sure you can state your message quickly and clearly. You can find more tips on how to be brief here.
- Be helpful. Remember that while you are of course talking to the reporter, you are also talking throughthe 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.
- 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.
- 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. For example, 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.” See how you now instantly understand how powerful hurricanes are?
- 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 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.
Still Nervous for a news media interview?
Still nervous? It’s natural to be a little nervous before an interview. To relieve tension, take a deep breath or yawn. And remember, like anything else you endeavor in life, practice makes perfect. The more interviews you do, the better you will become at being a spokesperson.
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