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10 tips to master media interviews

Jun 29, 2022

by Jaimie Abbott

Media interviews are a great opportunity to raise awareness and to increase the interest towards a product or an event. Media interviews can easily help you reach a huge number of people.

Media interviews can be in the form of:

Print Media; this will include newsletters, newspapers, journals, and magazines

Live Interviews; this usually happens face to face with the journalist. This is the most dangerous interview type because you risk saying too much. Sometimes it can be conducted using, for example, Skype.

Radio Interview; For radio interviews try to check whether it will live or pre-taped. It helps in preparing your answers.

Telephone Interviews; Avoid speaker phone, as it increases the chances of being misunderstood due to the reporter not hearing you clearly.

1) Do your Homework!

Find out whether the interview will include an interaction with the audience. This can take place in different forms, such as a call from the listeners to the studio. Alternatively, a question and an answer session on social media, for example, Twitter or Facebook.

Never count on the fact that you can “wing it”. Plan the way you will deliver your message across at least 5-10 times.

Know what you want to avoid at all costs. A journalist may want to write about how you are coping with competition, Talking about anything that concerns and surrounds your competitor’s loses the focus of your key message. It does, however, bring attention to your competitor!

If you are new to the world of interviews, it can seem very scary putting yourself ‘out there’. However, aim to have a few trials before the actual interview is to take place.

2)   Getting your points across and presentation on camera

  1. Keep your words concise and clear with right pauses. Don’t talk too fast, nor too slow. Remember that ums and ahs are to be kept to a minimum.
  2. Try to smile as often as possible, but keep it in line with the subject and the pace of the interview. Your aim should be to come across as warm-hearted, easy-going, yet professional. Keep eye contact with the journalist.
  3. What you wear for an interview will greatly affect your confidence. Pay attention to your hair and beard, if you have one.
  4. If you wear glasses, make sure they are clean. Cameras tend to show everything.
  5. Make sure your wardrobe is in tune with your profession. For example, a real estate agent will look great in a suit. However, a personal trainer will probably look best in gym gear.
  6. The golden rule is to avoid anything that can reflect light as it can create problems while filming. Exotic colors, unique patterns are best left for other occasions.
  7. Check beforehand what the background will be. This is important so that you don’t blend in with it. If you can, ask what the final background will look like. Dress accordingly.
  8. Style your hair as you normally world, give preference to hair products in order to make sure that your hair will not cover your face during the filming of the interview.
  9. For TV, make-up for women should be applied several layers thicker than usual. However, remember that too much will make the whole make-up look overdone. Also, keep in mind the lights used in professional filming cause the makeup to melt. Moreover, your skin can get oily, which in turn will make your skin shine. A good idea would be taking with you plenty of blotting paper and pressed powder.
  10. Jewelry, apart from a wrist watch and earrings for women, is best avoided. It can create an unnecessary distraction for the viewers of the interview.
  11. Remember that dark colours make you look slimmer and help you with your confidence 
  12. Dark colours such as dark blue, gray, and black help you look more authoritative when compared with their lighter counterparts. However, forget black, it makes you face look very pale. White can make you look a bit bigger than you actually are, it also causes glares on a TV screen. You can easily substitute it with light beige, for example.
  13. Pay attention to your shoes, clean and shiny pair of shoes can do their trick.

3) Dos of Media Interviews

  • Do keep the answers short and precise. Otherwise, you risk losing the audience’s focus.
  • Do answer different questions, but never lose sight of your key message.
  • If you are going to use personal experience in communicating your message, make sure you use descriptive language. Describe the experience in detail, using dramatic words. Your tone of voice will play an important part here. Hence, train your voice by recording it and then playing it back. This will tell where you need to work on in regards to your voice.
  • Do consider the audience, and keep your language simple. Pronounce your words clearly. Avoid using jargons, or humour that can be questioned.
  • To avoid your answers looking like they were prepared beforehand, try pausing before each answer.
  • Remember to only give positive answers and comments. Avoid objectionable questions by reinstating your positive values.
  • Control your body language. Try to achieve relaxed body posture. Don’t cross your legs or hands. Also, control your nodding. This can be perceived as an agreement to a question or a statement. Avoid looking sideways, or worse, down. Maintain a friendly and calm eye contact with the reporter.
  • Silence is your best friend in interviews. Get accustomed to it. Only say what you planned to, then stop talking and await the next question. Remember, reporters will often stay silent themselves in hopes that you would go on talking. It is their job, try to understand it.
  • Use real testimonials of your clients.

4) Don’ts of media interviews

  • Don’t be afraid to gesture, it makes your body language more natural.
  • Don’t ignore journalists calls, you risk having a publication where a journalist will mention your refusal to answer calls. It is always best to answer at least a few simple questions.
  • Never say anything off the record. Remember a golden rule; nothing ever stays off the record. Especially with reporters.
  • Be careful of how you use figures in the interview. They can be meaningless to the reader or the listener. If that is the case, they can put off audience attention. Play safer with the figures by saying one-fourth, for example, rather than 25%.
  • Don’t leave your phone on. Switch off your phone or leave it behind in the dressing room, if one exists. You won’t be able to accept calls anyway, why risk an uncomfortable situation.?
  • Arguing and interrupting are equal to suicide in media interviews. They significantly damage your image, if not destroy it completely.
  • Lying has the same effect, so stay away from it at all costs. If you are not sure of something, better say so. This can benefit you positively.
  • Don’t bring your notes with you to the interview. Paper rustles and creates unwanted noise. Plus, it makes you look unsure of what you wish to say.

5) How to handle unwanted questions

Here are some tricky questions:

  1. Questions that look more like an affirmation or even an accusation.

In this case, as much as you may want to scream, it will be best to answer calmly and positively. Stir clear and far of defensive answers. They only seal the accusation and make you look bad!

  1. Questions that get repeated

Repeated questions are a nuisance to the person being questioned, however, they are repeated in hopes that you will stir away from your key message and mess up your answer. Again, stay positive and repeat your answer in a clear and calm manner.

  1. Questions about your competitors

Talking about competitors’ image, reputation, or problems connected to your competitor can be tempting and for a reporter, this will make an excellent story. But, the whole experience will only put you in the bad light. So answer the question with your positive qualities in focus.

4. Speculative questions

They are there to make the story more interesting and sensational.

Best remedy from these questions is to stick to the facts and facts only.

5. The hardest of all questions is possibly those you do not have an answer to.

In this situation, silence and avoidance will place you on a very hot seat. Here, it all depends on what type of interview it is. If it is in print media, you can take your time coming up with an answer. However, if it is live, you might want to stir clear of an answer altogether. This skill can take time to perfect and it is definitely something worth learning. We can teach you!  Getting your main points and key message can be quite tricky if you don’t have the right experience.

6) No comment – NO!

Never ever say no comment in a media interview. It looks like you are hiding something, can come across as defensive and also becomes a useable ‘grab’ or ‘soundbite’ for the reporter to insert into the story.

Avoid leaving questions unanswered; you risk your image and the whole interview by doing so.

7) Focus on your answers

The audience won’t hear the questions (unless it is a live interview) so remember the focus is on your answers and you are in complete control. If you don’t say it, the media can’t use it. So just remember that – you have more control than what you think. But, a thoroughly prepared and interesting interview can end rumours, increase your credibility, and sometimes even advertise freely your products or services.

However, it’s worth remembering that an interview can backfire, leaving you scrambling for a damage control campaign. Also, the message that you have tried to convey through an interview could be unintentionally distorted. To avoid this, write down your key points on a paper and take it with you to the interview.

Most interviewees feel uneasy because the process requires losing some control over the situation. Although predicting the outcome of an interview in mass media is impossible, you can try to increase your chances of success with the right and timely preparation.

8) Have control of your media interview

Decide what you want your key message to be. This might be the hardest part if you are new at giving interviews or if you are new to talk about a particular issue. Regardless of the key message, assess whether the interview that you are considering to give can communicate what you are trying to say.

Moreover, it best to keep your key message in 3-5 short sentences.

Keeping your key message short will make it easier for the readers or listeners to understand. Furthermore, it gives you more opportunities to incorporate it into your answers.

9) Use your customers in media interviews

Do you have a story to share from one of your customers? Use it! (make sure you get permission first). Journalists love case studies, so have some up your sleeve.

It could be a good idea to attach a personal experience to support the message you are sending out. Identify a few key points of your message; make it your mission to convey them while giving answers out. It’s fine to come back to a point several times.

10) How to handle reporters.

Here are some suggestions to consider.

  1. Never agree to an interview right on the spot. It is true that timeframes for reporters and journalists are very tight and fresh news is more appreciated. Needless to say, hot news is more valuable too. However, try to set a time to do it once you ready and confident that you will succeed. Leave enough time to do the pre-interview research. A good idea would be to look into previous interviews of the reporter. This will help you understand his/her style of conducting the interview, types of questions he asks and whether he pushes on for an answer. Use this research to see how you can connect with the reporter during the interview. Having some sort of connection with the reporter will make the whole experience much more pleasing. This connection will go a long way as it will show the reporter that you have taken the time to get to know something about them. It might even help you secure future interviews too.
  2. Allow yourself to ask all the questions that interest you, such as, who will the audience be? What is their age category? Are they medical professionals or lawyers? What will the subject of the interview be? When will it be aired or published? Will the reporter ask controversial questions? How long will it be? You could also ask beforehand about what other people have said. Not only will this allow you to decide whether you want to go ahead with the interview, but it will allow you to prepare accordingly.

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