Mastering The Media Interview

Mastering the Media Interview

James Woewoda is the president of Woewoda Communications

Last week's article was titled "Over Coming The Fear of Public Speaking"

This week's article is titled "Mastering the Media Interview."

So the long hours that you have spent building a business, writing a book, acquiring knowledge in a specific field, or becoming a professional has finally paid off in the form of a media interview.

The question is ""what next?"

The very first thing you must decide is "do I want to do the interview?" With that in mind there are a few points to consider.

Point to Consider

- Why did the reporter contact me? And what is the subject material or theme that will be covered?
- Is the subject controversial? Is it currently in the news?
- Where is the reporter from? Who is the reporter? Do they have a "reputation?"
- Who is the audience?
- How long will the interview take? And how will it be conducted, ie. By phone, in person, radio, video etc..)

Interview Tips

Once you have decided to do the interview then it is important to think about the message that you wish to convey. Next, prepare a few key points that you can deliver simply and easily in less than 30 seconds. This can be accomplished by anticipating the questions that you think the reporter will ask of you.

During your interview you need to talk about your subject in very simple terms, as if you were speaking to a 6th grade class. Avoid complex terms and long sentences. You know your material better than anyone else, and this is the opportunity to share your knowledge and insight with the public.

Stick to what you know and don't comment on an area outside of your expertise. 

If your doing a radio interview over the phone then write down a few notes but don't read them off directly. The same holds true if your talking to a reporter from the print media, write down a few notes to remind yourself, but do not read directly off the page. 

For a radio interview listeners can only hear your voice so try to be enthusiastic and not speak in a monotone voice. To keep your voice at the same volume try to maintain the same distant from the microphone. 

For a television interview if you are standing or sitting maintain good posture. If sitting then lean forward. Where should you look during a television interview? At the interviewer. Why? because the camera will be focused on your face.

For television you need to project lots of energy. And remember to remember and then present 2 or 3 points in an interesting way. Think about the single point, single statistic or the one liner that the viewer will remember when the interview is over

On those occasions when you are interviewed from a remote location and the interviewer is back at the studio remember to look directly into the camera. 

Additional Tips

Be quotable

During an interview, one of your goals should be to say something significant that the media can later attribute to you in a quotation. Media experts, do this by learning  to turn their answers into quotable statements through one particular technique: incorporating the question into the answer.

Question "Why did you decide to raise money for cancer research?"

Weak answer - "To help people"
Strong answer "I decided to raise money for cancer research because my younger sister had cancer."

Speak in sound bites

In taped or or otherwise recorded interviews, the journalist's job is to reduce a great deal of information to a condensed version for print or broadcast purposes. Even though an interview can last for 45 minutes, the final story might be edited down to as few as 30 seconds on the air or 4 sentences in print.

Therefore to become a sought after media source, learn to keep your statements brief and to the point. As soon as you start to ramble, you make it difficult for a journalist to edit your response into usable form.

You can always help your interview by speaking in soundbite sound bites - 13 to 15 second remarks that make a point clearly and cogently.

Add Color to your answers

You can liven up any discussion by using comparisons the audience can relate to. For example, rather than describing a product by its size and weight, make it more colorful by creating a picturesque image. Using such phrases as "it's the size of a compact car" or "it weights about as much as a penny" gives the public something more to remember than straight statistics.

Next week's topic "How to dress for the interview"


Getting Publicity (Tana Fletcher, Julia Rockler, 2005, Self Counsel Press, Canada)
You and the Media, A Researcher's Guide For Effectively Dealing with the News Media (American Geophysical publication)


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