How to Prepare for an Interview with the Media

Posted by ironshe

by Scott Emerine

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There are two types of people; those that like being interviewed and having media exposure and those that do not. Being interviewed can be positive depending on how it is handled. In this blog I will focus on how to prepare for an interview with the media and include tips for executives. 

What to wear:

Have you ever watched a television interview or saw an article in a newspaper or magazine only to have your attention shifted to what the person was wearing instead of what he or she was saying? Take a look next time you watch the news or read a story. If you find yourself being interviewed and photographed you want to be sure you do not wear something that distracts. Wearing solid colors, and neutral colors can keep your image from overshadowing your story. Stripes are ok also. Avoid wild patterns and clashing colors. If you find yourself sitting, make sure your clothing is appropriate. Men can sit on the coat jacket to be sure it is not riding up and clumping on your shoulders giving you an appearance of wearing shoulder pads. It is also good to dress according to the target publication. If you are being interviewed by a business publication formal attire may be most appropriate. If it community news business causal might be more comfortable and make you seem less rigid and more approachable.

What to say:

It is never wrong to ask a reporter or writer what he or she wants to talk about in advance of a story. This gives you time to think and prepare and also lets them know you are genuinely interested in their job and story. Getting an advanced list of questions is even better. You want to assure the writer or interviewer that you want to make sure you provide the information that is needed and not come across as if you want to control the message.

If a question does not make sense, it is ok to ask for clarification. If it is for live television you can even restate the question if needed to give yourself time to think. If you do not have the answer, you can say you are not certain but would be glad to get back with him or her. Never provide an answer you are unsure of. You may even consider having a subject matter expert on your team available for interviews depending on the type of interview. Always stay focused on the topic at hand and do not deviate unless necessary.

How to say it:

Diction and inflection can impact a story and can quickly derail content if taken out of context. Talk normally. During an interview use your own words. Some people have made the mistake of trying to use words that are not a part of their everyday vernacular. Those words can be pronounced wrong or used in the wrong context. That can make a good interview lose credibility fast. Avoid jargon, clichés and acronyms. Every industry uses short acronyms to describe things. But, the reader or the viewer can get lost. Be sure you describe things in a way that will make sense to the audience.

 Who should say it?

Not every CEO or President is good at interviewing or should be interviewed. Some people are just not great at interviewing. It is ok to designate a spokesperson, company representative, or another designee for interviews. Your team or ownership should decide. If there is something that is sensitive in nature, you should brief your team or leadership to make sure everyone is on the same page and conveys the right message. Many companies have media policies and procedures for various situations including crisis communications. Every company should review their current policies and procedures.

 Role Play:

Role-playing can be a great way to prepare for an interview. Prepare your own list of potential questions and answers. Have someone you know ask you questions and then give your responses. You may even ask them to throw one at you that you are not prepared for. This helps prepare you for the live interview.

Body Language:

Never forget that body language can communicate for you even when you are not speaking. Wrinkled foreheads and eyebrows communicate volumes. A friendly smile, or good handshake can set the tone of an interview before it begins. Body language is even more important on live television interviews. You want to be confident, but never arrogant. You want to appear engaged and active but never agitated or angry. You want to be passionate but not pushy.

As hard as it may be, watch your interview or read the article. Each time you are interviewed the easier it becomes. Critique yourself and learn each time you can on how you can improve.

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