How to Nail Your Media Interview

You’ve reached out to the media, and great news – they want to interview you! Now what? We’ve all witnessed some great interviews, and some very painful ones (Miss America pageants, anyone?). So what makes for a
great interview?

Here are some tips to help you get through a media interview so you can slay it, Beyoncé style.

1. Do Your Research
Find out any background information on the reporter and/or media outlet doing the interview. Look for previous interviews to get a sense of the reporter’s interview style, and what kinds of questions they ask. Research the interview topic and come prepared to speak about recent trends or statistics.

2. Understanding the Interview
Is your interview live or pre-recorded? It is a television, radio, print or online interview, done in-studio or over the phone? Make sure you know the type and length of your interview, so you can prepare yourself accordingly. For any in-person television interview or photo opportunities, dress professionally and avoid small stripes or patterns – they will appear distorted on a screen and may not photograph well.

3. Prepare Key Messages
Preparation before an interview is key – don’t listen to anyone who tells you to just “wing it”. Write down 3 to 5 key messages that you’d like to convey during the interview. Think about what kinds of tough questions the reporter could ask you, and prepare responses to these questions. Review your messages with a friend or family member to ensure they are clear and to the point, and avoid using jargon or slang.

4. Practice Makes Perfect
Now that you know what you’d like to get across in the interview, practice your key points. Have a colleague or friend act as the reporter and ask you some interview questions. Whenever possible, use anecdotes and example to help illustrate your key points. Practice in the mirror or record yourself - most people aren’t aware of nervous habits they might have while speaking. While practicing is a good idea, there’s no need to memorize your key points word for word - or your interview may come across as stiff and unnatural.

5. Nothing is “off the record”
When speaking with a reporter, you should only say as much as you’ve come prepared to discuss. Know that you’ll be on the record from the moment you meet the reporter, even if it’s just casual conversation before the interview. In some cases, reporters may share their interview questions in advance, but be aware they may not always stick to their script.

Janessa Bishop has worked in the public relations and communications field for more than seven years. She specializes in media relations, events management and execution, and developing and executing public relations programs for the public and private sector and not-for-profits. She currently works at Sun Life Financial in Toronto as a Senior Communications Specialist.