Your media moment – give a successful interview
Your media moment – give a successful interview
The phone is ringing. This is a journalist who wants to ask you a few questions about an article he is writing. You, flattered, take the call and blast your way through the interview because off the top of your head you can’t remember your elevator pitch or a single talking point about your business or product. Oops!
Many of us will be approached by the media for an offer or more and knowing how to prepare will eliminate much of your anxiety as well as start a story you can be proud of.
Pointer 1: You can’t control what the reporter writes
You hope that if you prepare an answer to every possible question and give as much detail as possible in your answers, your interview will be published verbatim with brilliant and accurate quotes and everything in the article will be exactly as you want it to be.
No matter what you say or how you say it, the reporter always has the last word. Literally. Your quotes will be taken out of context. Your key points will be edited, shortened and paraphrased. The reporter will decide which points are most important to write about – especially if you’ve given so much information that the reporter can’t tell what your key points are.
This does not mean the reporter is out to get you or is deliberately trying to undermine you. It is your responsibility to know exactly what your main points are and stick to them. If you only have three points and keep coming back to them, it will be difficult for the reporter to write about anything else.
Instead of anticipating every question you might be asked, focus your preparation on the most critical points and practice answering each question by going back to those points. You can only control your own words, so make sure your message is clear, concise and easily conveyed.
Pointer 2: Accept the call when you’re ready
It’s tempting when a reporter calls to jump right into the interview. You don’t want to keep her waiting, and you’re afraid that if you don’t take the call, you’ll miss your “big chance.”
Resist the temptation and take a few minutes to prepare. Ask the reporter what the topic is and when it is due. Let the reporter know that you are unable to speak right now, but will call in a few minutes or before the deadline. You can try asking the reporter to email or fax the interview questions to you, and sometimes the entire interview can be conducted via email, but be prepared for the reporter to decline.
Now that you have some time to prepare, sit down at your computer or open your file drawer and pull out your marketing documents, your bio, your website, your blog, and anything else you can think of to have the information from that you need at your fingertips.
Identify and clarify the main points you want to cover – no more than three. Look at your mission statement, review your elevator pitch, and take a few deep breaths.
Now, when you call the journalist, you are ready to give an interview!
Indicator 3: Don’t take mistakes personally
Even with excellent preparation, you may be misquoted or find a factual error in the article. It’s actually very likely.
When a journalist is taking notes on the phone, it’s hard to write down everything exactly as you said it. Even when interviewing in person and using a recording device, it’s not easy to get everything right. And everyone has personal filters through which information is fed, meaning that the reporter’s interpretation and perception of what was said may be different from yours. Again, the reporter doesn’t want to understand you. Her only goal is to write a good, accurate story that informs her readers.
If the factual errors are minor (your business was founded in 1997, but the article says 1998) and readers will never know the difference, then leave it. If you’re slightly misquoted, but you don’t sound like a murderer or a racist, then let it go.
If the error is more damaging, like a misspelled web address or, say, the wrong person being credited with an important invention, then by all means request that a correction be printed. The beauty of web-based media is that it can be edited at any time, unlike print media.
If you think you can prevent mistakes by asking to see the article before it’s published, don’t worry. The journalist does not need your permission or approval to publish the article – it is not advertising that you have paid for and can control. Journalists cannot be influenced by their sources to change their stories – it is their job to remain objective and credible by telling a story based on their own research and interpretation of the facts.
If you’re lucky, the author will send you your quotes or any complex data for fact-checking, and that’s a great courtesy. But asking to see the material before it’s published is generally considered bad etiquette and won’t go down well with the reporter.
Remember that you have complete control over the words that come out of your mouth. This is the only opportunity you have in an interview to get your message across in a way that is unambiguous to the reporter and readers. Take the time to prepare your key points in advance and never waver from your main message, and you’ll always be ready for your media moment.
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