You finally nailed it – a local TV reporter you’ve been calling and emailing for weeks wants to interview you for the business, community or social issue that you’ve been promoting. Excited, you call your friends to alert them about your upcoming TV news appearance. Now what?
Landing the big interview to generate awareness for her cause was a great reward for her media outreach efforts. She quickly recognized though that the prize – accurate reporting of her position – only comes with preparation.
Looking at a reporter, talking to into a microphone, searching for a profound comment while a video camera rolls is not a skill most of us possess. As my colleague Neil Parker advises his clients “An interview is no time for original thought.” Your comments and how you present them should be prepared and practiced far in advance!
These tried and true steps will arm you with the confidence you’ll need to turn that interview into and all your PR efforts into positive coverage. These apply to practically any media interview, whether you’re speaking on behalf of a community group, business, government or nonprofit organization:
Agree on a spokesperson
For businesses, governments or nonprofits, that’s an easy one. It’s usually the top executive. But if you’re a community group with many volunteers at work, you’ll need to agree in advance on who’s doing the interview. The stark reality is that it should be one person (or two at most) who will do the interview. If there are two of you, agree in advance who will discuss which topics, so you don’t repeat your key messages.
Turn your messages into sound bites
Since the news report is likely limited to two or three minutes, expect that just one or two of your sound bites – typically 10 to 20 seconds long– will be aired. Before the interview, jot down your key messages and shorten them. Repeat and put your messages in your own words to increase your comfort level and boost confidence.
Remember — COMFORT + CONFIDENCE = POSITIVE COVERAGE
Be prepared with answers by knowing the questions. It’s likely that as a business exec, government leader or a community activist, you’ve been asked hundreds of questions. Identify which questions are most likely to be asked. Put your topic in context of other news or trends. For example, the sports complex proposed for Kathy’s community comes as other similar facilities are failing and may require government help – a tax increase – to stay afloat. So her answers should refer to the experiences of other towns stuck with a white elephant that will require a bail out.
Rehearsing your answers is AS important as framing them. Ask a colleague to lead a mock interview. That experience will be just as weird and surreal as the real video-recorded interview, so why not get the hang of it beforehand! Practice a few times, and if you have a video camera or digital recorder, use it! Watching or hearing yourself for the first time is hard for anybody, but you’ll learn a valuable lesson and will sharpen your performance after seeing yourself in action.
Yes, you can still have nervous energy – it’s natural and provides the adrenaline rush that leads to great performances. However, the way to channel that energy into a compelling interview is by being prepared, knowing what to expect and facing your questions with confidence.