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How to prepare for media interviews: beginner tips

If you’re receiving significant positive word of mouth in your local area or beyond, or are promoting your expert knowledge and products/services via public relations activities, chances are you will find yourself in a media interview at some stage.

This is a great opportunity to gain third party endorsement for your business in the form of a resulting article for print and online or an interview piece for broadcast.

So how do you prepare for what could be a game-changing event? Don’t freak out, there are some simple steps to follow for a great outcome.

First, check the journalist’s story/interview angle with them and ask for sample questions so you can prepare considered responses. Some journalists may not provide you with the latter but it’s worth a try so you can better collate your thoughts beforehand.

Also be sure to research the journalist to gain a good understanding of their experience, topics of interest, past pieces of media coverage, and interviewing style. They’re taking the time to get to know you – reciprocate and it could work in your favour.

When preparing responses to each of the questions, I suggest writing your top five answers/key messages in bullet point form underneath. Be sure to order these from most important to least important. Also be sure to throw in some Q&A you think may be possible based on your research of the journalist, their media outlet and the interview focus, and your answers to those initial questions. Often the conversation will lead in a direction you didn’t expect so be prepared for the unexpected.

Then, ask your staff or a family member or friend to become the interviewer and conduct a pre-interview practice session. It’s totally normal to be apprehensive about being interviewed – even the most seasoned of interviewees get nerves.

Here are some key points to remember when it comes to the actual interview day:

  • Psych yourself up so you’re as confident and positive as possible beforehand, then you will most likely sound it.
  • As mentioned, ensure you’re prepared for the best and worst questioning from the journalist, just in case.
  • During the interview, if you’ve responded with as much information as you want to share and the journalist pauses at length then don’t feel pressured to fill the silence.
  • Remember that you own the interview – you are the one sharing your thoughts, sharing your time, so never feel pressure to go down a path you are uncomfortable with.
  • Breathe and take as much time as you want to think things through before responding. It’s better to be considered and slow to respond than hasty and regret something you said.
  • Be as clear and concise as possible. This is where stopping and thinking before speaking whenever you need to will come in handy.
  • Use your hands and facial expressions to help put you at ease and encourage a more expressive, conviction-filled response. Of course, rein that in if you’re doing a TV interview! Hands flying in front of your face is not a good look and is distracting for your audience.
  • If you’re unsure of a particular point just admit so and say you’ll get back to the journalist with a response. They – and your audience if you’re live – will respect your honesty.
  • Remember that everything’s on the record from the moment the journalist is on the line/in your sights right through to the moment they hang up or you leave the interview location.
  • Lastly, enjoy the experience… yes, that is possible!

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Kristy Sheppard

Kristy Sheppard

Kristy Sheppard is MYOB's manager for public relations. She has more than a decade of experience in the public relations space, spanning B2C and B2B corporate and consulting roles within the technology, financial services, franchising and FMCG industries. At MYOB she delivers programs communicating its vision, business advocacy stance and milestones as it advances products towards and within the online landscape.

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