In our last post we discussed the importance of building relationships with news media and having a strategy for interacting with them. This post is about executing that strategy through interviews.

Even as news media changes, interviews are still a critically important way to communicate your organization’s message. Whether your comments appear on a website, in a newspaper, on the radio, on a podcast, in a livestream or the 10 o’clock news, a little bit of preparation will go a long way. Here are tips.

How do you prepare for a media interview?

Dealing with reporters can be scary. It’s ok to not be a great natural spokesperson as long as you’re willing to work at it. Interview preparation can be broken down into three elements: key messages, backgrounding and practice.

Key messages

The goal of a media interview is to focus the reporter on a few key messages that are accurate, clear, concise and memorable. Therefore, the first step in preparing for an interview should always be to develop three key messages – the primary statements you want your audiences to remember. Some helpful tips for writing key messages include:

  • Use succinct, positive, active language
  • Use language appropriate for your audience
  • Prepare support points for each of the three key messages
  • Revisit your support points as frequently as you can in the flow of the interview
  • Speak from your heart

Backgrounding

You live with your subject matter. Most reporters don’t. Unless they specifically cover your organization or industry, they likely will not be experts about your organization’s issues, services or programs. Be prepared to provide concise information and emphasize and repeat key messages to a reporter. Avoid jargon, if possible, and if you must use technical terms, take the time to fully explain them.

Practice

Take time to anticipate all questions a reporter might ask – even the most strange or difficult –  and prepare answers to each. Brainstorm with colleagues to decide the best way to handle potential questions and prepare responds to them.

Practice can prevent you from being caught off guard and giving a quote you and your organization might regret. Taking time to wordsmith in advance allows you to be more relaxed during the interview. Don’t worry about memorizing your responses. Be knowledgeable, prepared and relaxed and you’ll do fine.

Now, let’s review. We’ve made the case for the importance of having a good spokesperson. We explored the value of building relationships with news media and developing a strategy for interacting with them. And we offered tips for preparing for a media interview. In our next post in the series we’ll cover how a good spokesperson conducts themselves in an interview.

Want to learn more about media training and becoming a better spokesperson? Email or call me – 317-749-0337.