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Tips for Preparing for a Media Interview

Before the interview:

  • Know the reporter, publication/program, interview format, audience.
  • Know your goal for the interview.
  • Know what you want to say: review your "key message points."
  • Jot down likely questions, appropriate answers.
  • Prepare a range of questions, hard and easy.

Interview tips:

  • Speak in "headlines." Offer conclusions first, briefly and directly and back it with facts or "proof points."
  • Don't over-answer. Short answers are better than long.
  • Don't be fixated by the question. "Bridge" to a related point you want to make.
  • Asked about a problem? Talk about a solution.
  • Don't let false charges, facts or figures offered by a reporter stand uncorrected.
  • Don't repeat a reporter's negative statements or slurs. Frame your reply as a positive statement.
  • Don't fall victim to hypothetical situations and "A or B" dilemmas.
  • Be engaging, likable.
  • Don't know the answer? Don't fake it. If appropriate, assure the reporter you will find and provide the needed facts in a timely manner, or offer to assist the reporter in finding that other source.
  • Don't overlap the interviewer's question; begin your answer when the reporter is finished.
  • Keep cool. Don't be provoked.
  • Never lie to a reporter.

For telephone interviews:

  • Buy preparation time by asking to call the reporter back if deadline allows.
  • Establish an "interview atmosphere" and mindset.
  • Use notes.
  • Ask questions in order to gain feedback.
  • For radio, speak visually - use words to paint pictures.

For television interviews:

  • For men, a dark suit and blue shirt works best. For women, avoid solid black or white, or busy patterns. Bright colors are fine.
  • Don't wear large, shiny or noisy jewelry.
  • Sit erect, but not ramrod-straight, slightly forward in the chair. Unbutton suit jacket when seated.
  • Resist the urge to shout into the microphone. Speak and gesture naturally.
  • Talk to the reporter/interviewer, not the camera.
  • Keep a pleasant expression; smile when appropriate.
  • Hold your "interview attitude" from the moment you are lit until the interview is completely over and the camera is off.

A=Q + key point

Courtesy of Fleishman-Hillard International Communications