Margaret McGann

How to survive — and enjoy the media interview:

In communications and marketing, interviews, media interview, media relations, public relations on January 25, 2010 at 8:25 am

This week, I asked my colleague Richard Chassie to share some tips on how to lose your stage fright and enjoy being interviewed by the media. Here’s his guest post:

The one thing to remember is that you are in fact in control of the interview.  However, it’s not about hijacking the process; it’s about creating a win-win situation for both you and the interviewer.

General media interview tips:

  • Keep in mind the goal(s) you’ve established for the interview: you have three or four key messages that you need to communicate to your audience.
  • Be proactive: answer the questions but take the opportunity to bridge them with key message points.
  • You’re the expert – show confidence through your posture and your enthusiasm for the subject.
  • Remember the audience: don’t use industry jargon, especially if you’re talking to mainstream media.
  • Build a rapport with the journalist – every so often, refer to the interviewer by name.
  • Never use the “no comment” response.  If the question is awkward, simply shape the answer to reflect your key messages.
  • You can also deflect an awkward question by using a “transition” line: that’s an interesting question, but the real issue is
  • You may be asked the same question more than once, in different ways.  Don’t get flustered or defensive – just keep your key messages in mind.
  • Do respond to a reporter’s inaccuracies, but do so with tact.
  • If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t fake it, or lie.  If possible, tell the journalist you will follow up with the information.
  • Don’t comment negatively on your competitors: focus instead on what sets you or your company apart from the competition.
  • Stay calm during moments of silence: this may be a tactic to get you unnerved and you could start babbling.
  • The journalist is not your enemy, nor your friend: they have a job to do, and so do you.
  • Do not be lulled into a false sense of camaraderie: avoid “off the cuff” remarks, even before and after the interview.  Anything you say in the presence of a journalist is possible material for their story.
  • Never ask to review the story before it goes to print or on air, but do make yourself available should they need more information.

To recap:

  • Be prepared
  • Remember what you want to accomplish
  • Anticipate a variety of questions
  • Be professional

Richard Chassie is a Toronto-based communications and public relations professional who provides media training to senior executives and spokespersons on how to be more effective in dealing with the media.  For more information on Richard visit his LinkedIn profile or follow him on Twitter.

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