The biggest tip anyone can be given ahead of an upcoming media interview is prepare, prepare, prepare. No matter how well you know the topic, your business, or feel like you already know what you want to say during the interview, nothing overrides the essential need to prepare.
Henry Kissinger once famously opened a press conference saying: ‘Does anyone have any questions for my answers?’ Kissinger clearly knew what messages he wanted to convey, and was ready to deliver his points regardless of the questions thrown at him.
When preparing for an interview, make sure you plan the three main points you want to get across. These key messages should be the answers you keep coming back to again and again during your interview.
To define these key messages, imagine you are reading the published article after your interview and the story includes only three or four sentences quoting you – what do you hope these sentences say? These are your key messages.
Make these messages sharp and know them inside out.
Even if you’re about to do a ‘friendly’ interview, take the time to think through the tough questions you’ll be asked – it’s better to think through these questions and practise how you want to respond, rather than be caught off guard during the interview.
Not only should you think through the easy and tough questions that might come your way on the interview topic itself, but you should also ask yourself what else the journalist could touch on.
What else is going on in your company? Are there any historical issues in your company that the journalist might bring up? What’s happening in the wider sector they might ask you to comment on? What are your competitors up to? What else is generally in the news today that they might ask your opinion on?
You now know the key messages you want to focus on during the interview. You have thought extensively about the questions that could come your way. Now it’s time to practise.
No matter how experienced you are at media interviews, take the time to rehearse and practise in advance with a communications adviser or experienced colleague.
Practise your answers to the easy questions to make sure you are succinctly communicating the story you want to tell – don’t assume you’ll get it right the first time because people usually don’t.
And then make sure you have a wide range of tougher questions thrown at you, so you become confident in how you will handle them, and comfortable with the message you’re giving.
Media interviews are an essential communication tool for organisations and business leaders – and learning how to handle them successfully is an acquired skill. Preparation and practise are essential, always. Make sure this time is protected in your diary ahead of a media interview to give yourself the best chance of success.
To find out more about WA’s media training workshops, contact Sarah Gullo.