EPISODE 11: HOW TO DO THAT MEDIA INTERVIEW LIKE A PRO
by Simone Sauter
So, you’ve done all that hard work. You’ve pitched your story to a journalist or editor, they loved the message you’re sharing, and so you landed that media interview. Awesome!
There’s just one problem. The mere thought of doing the interview itself leaves you quaking in your boots.
Especially if you’re new to PR, you struggle with nerves or you feel like you have the future success of your business resting on your shoulders.
Yes, these interviews are important, but there’s no need to feel overwhelmed.
When you know how to best prepare for your interview, skilfully share your message with your audience, position yourself as an expert and get maximum coverage, you’ll rock that media interview like a superstar and actually enjoy the experience.
So, to kick-start your media training, here are my most valuable tips for preparing for those print, TV, and radio interviews.
Click on play and listen to this episode:
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A MEDIA INTERVIEW
Before I dive into the specifics for print, radio, TV, and online, I want to give you eight powerful interview preparation techniques that you should bear in mind when you have a media interview coming up.
Follow these and you’ll better share your message with your audience, show the world that you’re an expert in your field and become the kind of interviewee that all journalists would love to talk to. Here are the tips:
Tip #1: Be prepared
Those boy scouts were right – it’s always important to be prepared, especially when you have a media interview coming up.
Don’t be tempted to just rock up after a bad night’s sleep, pull some ideas off the top of your head and simply hope for the best. Your business deserves much more than that.
By getting prepared, you’ll also provide value to the journalist and even more value to the audience too.
Tip #2: Do your research
Take some extra time to research the publication that you’re being interviewed for and the journalist too.
If you pitched to the journalist in the first place then you should have already done this beforehand. Nevertheless, it’s always worth putting in some extra effort so you are better informed.
Tip #3: Be flexible
In previous posts, we’ve spoken about the importance of being flexible during the entire process. As I mentioned before, journalists are under immense time pressure and they really need your help to get things done.
The best way you can do this is by being flexible. Be willing to reschedule the interview if needed, help that journalist out when he or she needs you, and work together to create the kind of coverage that you’re looking for.
Tip #4: Be open
No one said that the interview process was going to be easy. The journalist is likely to ask you some difficult and even provocative questions so they can build your story, show what an interesting character you are, to entertain and to create some awesome work.
So be open to answering these questions. Be yourself, be authentic and be honest. Many other people in your position would probably avoid answering these questions, so show what a confident person you are, take a deep breath, then go ahead and answer.
Tip #5: Be clear on what you don’t want published
Make sure that you tell the journalist beforehand if there is information that you don’t want published. Otherwise, how will they know?
Tip #6: Smile!
It doesn’t matter whether you’re being interviewed for print, for TV, or for radio – keep smiling.
When you smile, people have more confidence in you. They’ll trust you more. Your skills and abilities shine out and you will create a great impression on the journalist and your audience. Yes, it can be hard when you’re feeling nervous, but just be brave – it will be worth it.
Tip #7: Be available for follow up questions
Journalists don’t always get enough content or info from you the first time round and will probably want to get back in touch to find out more. So always be available for follow up questions.
Remember, you built a relationship with that journalist and you need to prove yourself as a reliable resource for your topic. If you do that, they’ll recommend you to other journalists and are likely to come back to you at a later point if you show that you’re an interesting person to talk to.
Tip #8: Tell your audience
Surprisingly, many people forget to tell their own audiences when they’ve lined up an interview, so they lose valuable exposure. Don’t let this happen to you.
Tell your audience, “Hey, this Saturday I’m on [insert name] TV/radio show. Come over and watch me!” or “I’ll be in this month’s edition of [insert magazine name], so make sure you get yourself a copy!”
This is what your audience wants to see. This is what positions you as an expert in the eyes of your audience, and the interview itself will also add value.
Do this and your audience will start thinking, ‘Oh my God! She really knows what she’s talking about. Maybe I should listen to her more. Maybe I should sign up for a freebie. Maybe I should hire her.’ or whatever.
Again, by following these tips, you’ll better prepare for your interview, you’ll build authority and you’ll become a recognized expert in your field. That’s one of the main reasons we do PR, right?
Now let’s get more specific and consider how to prepare for a print/online interview.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A PRINT OR ONLINE INTERVIEW
Not all interviews will be published in a newspaper or a magazine. These days, many high-quality interviews appear only online, or even in both print and online formats.
Here’s how you can prepare for these without breaking a sweat!
#1: Know your story
It’s really important to get clear about what you do, who you serve and what your background story is.
Your elevator pitch will help you to redefine this, so be sure to review what you’ve already created and add to it if necessary.
#2: Be clear about your goals
What do you want to achieve with this interview? What message do you want to share with your audience? Are there any very important topics you want to cover? Think long and hard about this and keep it in mind during the interview.
#3: Find out about the format
Make sure you know everything about the format by asking the journalist.
Is it an interview? Is it a report? Is it a profile? How long will it be (aka how many words)? How long will the interview take?
Pick three or four very important questions that you really need to know beforehand. Don’t ask about every little detail because as I mentioned, the journalist will be busy.
#4: Find out if it’s a phone interview or questions via email
Journalists usually conduct interviews over the phone or via email these days, so check which of these you’ll be asked to use. I’ve done both and I love both.
But once I had an amazing experience with a journalist from a really huge, very famous newspaper that I’d always dreamed of appearing in.
She called me to chat about the topic of heartbreak and we had an interesting conversation, then she asked me if I’d be willing to answer some questions via email.
I said, ‘Yeah, sure. Not a problem’.
I took about three hours of my time to answer these questions in a very detailed way, and it really paid off. She just printed exactly what I said without changing a single word! I just had it as my own article with a mention of my book and a link to my website. It was amazing!
So, if you get the chance to answer the questions via email, I’d really encourage you to do it and put the effort in.
Remember again (yes, I know I say this over and over) a journalist is under massive time pressure. You need to help him or her to get his job done as fast and as well as you can so you can get free coverage.
The coverage I got from that one email that got me featured in the newspaper was mind-blowing!
Of course, I’m not saying that this will happen all the time, but your chances are really high. The more you help a journalist, the better it will turn out for you.
#5: Ask for the questions beforehand
If you’re not doing the interview via email, I’d suggest that you ask for the questions beforehand. This will help you get clear on your answers and allow yourself to shine as an expert in your field.
#6: Don’t use industry slang
Getting media coverage is all about building a trustworthy relationship and gain credibility to – at a later point – making sales and getting more clients. So, people need to be able to follow you, to understand what you’re saying and to be able to identify with you. This means you should never use slang or jargon.
If you do, your audience won’t understand what you’re saying, they need to identify with you and they need to feel like you can help them, especially if you’re a coach.
Be clear, use everyday language, and be understandable.
#7: Ask if you can include a link to your website
If the interview will be in print, then ask the journalist to include a mention of your website.
People are generally lazy, so they aren’t very likely to try to track down your services online or google your name. Make it easy for them. Give it all to them right away.
Linking back to your website is also great for SEO, but we’ll talk about that more in future blog posts.
Don’t ever ask for them to link to one of your products or services, because they simply won’t do this. It’s free advertising and they’re not allowed to.
#8: Send the journalist your photo and bio
Remember to also send the journalist your photo and bio so they can include it in the piece.
If you have more time to prepare, you can create a media and PR page on your website that will allow the journalist to just go there and download everything they need.
It’s also worth checking exactly what the journalist needs, as it can vary from publication to publication.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A TV OR RADIO INTERVIEW
Now let’s talk about TV and radio.
I’ve been interviewed for my coaching business on TV and on radio many times over the year. But I also worked for a local radio station for eight years as a freelancer and I used to interview people for my job.
I know a thing or two what works and what doesn’t on the radio.
Here are my tips for appearing on the radio or TV. Some are a bit similar to my tips for print, and others are very different.
#1: Know your story
As before, it’s important to be clear on your story and the message you want to share before the interview starts.
Review your elevator pitch before you start and take some time to look inwards and remember your ‘why’.
#2: Be clear on your goals
Again, what do you want this interview to help you achieve for your business? Is there a particular message you want to share or a topic you think your audience needs to consider?
#3: Find out about the format
Make sure you know everything about the format by asking the journalist.
Is it an interview? Is it a report? Is it a profile? How long will the interview take? Is it live or recorded?
Pick three or four very important questions that you’d like answered beforehand. Don’t ask about every little detail because as I mentioned, the journalist is going to be busy.
#4: Get hold of the questions beforehand
It’s also worth asking for the questions before the interview itself so you have extra time to get ready and can present your message in the best way possible.
Whilst you do so, also ask if there’s anything you need to keep in mind. If so, they will let you know.
#5: Ask if they’re willing to mention your website
It’s important to ask if you can mention your website, services or even your book during the interview.
Sometimes you’ll be lucky enough to get invited to share your details during the interview itself.
Otherwise, keep your ears open for places during the conversation when you could naturally mention your coaching programme, your services or anything else you’d like to share.
If there really isn’t anywhere where you could mention it, don’t try to squeeze it anyway. That would just come across as ‘salesy’ and wouldn’t be authentic.
Just be yourself. Talk about what you do. Be very aware of your messaging, what you want to bring across and then go with the flow.
#6: Be friendly, open and talk like a normal human being
You’ve probably seen or heard this yourself. Someone is doing an interview and they’re struggling with their nerves, so they end up speaking like a robot, stuttering or speaking so quietly that it’s hard to understand them. Don’t be like this person.
Your voice carries your message, so be very aware of how you’re using it. Speak loudly, confidently, clearly and in a friendly way too.
If you struggle with nerves, don’t worry. Getting prepared before the interview can do a lot to help. I can also help you by providing you with some media training so get in touch if you’d like to know more.
Also, make sure you don’t mumble or speak too fast, and if you don’t understand a question, be sure to ask the interviewer to clarify, just as you would in a normal conversation.
#7: Use short sentences
It’s much easier for everyone to understand when you use short sentences, simplify your language and focus on conveying your core message, instead of trying to share everything you know about a particular topic or getting off track.
#8: Just admit when you don’t know the answer
It can be scary when you’re asked a question and you don’t know the answer.
But don’t be worried. Just admit that you don’t know.
This will make you much more likeable and people will better identify with you and want to work with you.
Also take your time to think if you don’t have the answer straight away. Just pause and answer very consciously.
If you’re worried about any part of the interview, practice it beforehand. Really, really practice it. After all, practice makes perfect.
#10: Consider what you will wear for the interview
With television, it’s also important to think about what you’re going to wear.
Chose something that you feel comfortable in and that fits the program, your clients, the audience and the message you want to share. Just be sure to never wear stripes!
The journalist will probably share more recommendations that are specific to the programme so be sure to ask them for more information.
#11: On television, be aware of your body language
A massive 55% of your communication takes place through your body language, so make sure it’s positive. If you’re scared or if you’re feeling insecure, make sure that you sit up straight and don’t roll your shoulders.
Again, practice makes perfect.
Wow, we’ve covered a lot of information here!
All of this will help you do that media interview with confidence whilst sharing your core message and building your reputation as an expert in your field. Much success!
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