As a journalist in my first career, as someone who spent a dozen years in the media spotlight in politics, and as a member of the public relations team here at Bluetext, I am very comfortable talking to reporters, for print publications, on the radio, and as a commentator on broadcast networks. I act as a spokesperson for many of our clients, and am often interviewed myself. Most of our clients, of course, don’t have this same background and spend their time running and growing their businesses, not thinking about media interviews. Giving them the public relations interview tips is essential.
They are frequently nervous and uncertain on how to act in an interview or how to stay on message. So when we have opportunities to place them in front of reporters to discuss their companies, we often provide media training in advance to get them ready.
One of the lessons I teach is that even though I do this for a living, I still make mistakes when I’m not prepared. With that in mind, here are 10 tips for preparing for a public relations interview to make sure you get your message out the way you want it:
1) Find out what the reporter wants to ask before the interview, and prepare your talking points ahead of time. Practice with a colleague or family member.
2) Reporters like sound-bites, whether in print or on air. Draft one or two beforehand so that you can use them during the interview.
3) This is not a test. It’s okay to have notes in front of you during the interview with your talking points and sound-bites. The only exception is for a video interview, but you can still have them nearby.
4) When interviewed on video, you want the audience to listen to what you are saying, not looking at what you are wearing. Dress conservatively without embellishment.
5) Reporters are neither your friend nor your adversary. They are simply the conduits to your real audience, the reader or viewer of the interview.
6) Never get defensive. Always remain positive and smile. It’s not about you, it’s about the message you are delivering for your brand or organization.
7) Take your time when answering, and make sure you understand the question. It’s ok to rephrase it, or to ask for clarification if you don’t understand it.
8) When on camera, lock your eyes onto the reporter’s eyes; don’t look at the camera. If it’s a “remote” interview, where the reporter is in a different location, look only into the camera.
9) Pause between thoughts for two beats–it gives the editors a place to edit.
10) Keep your interviews short and answers concise. That gives a much better chance that your sound bite will be the one used for the story.
And finally, practice, practice practice. The more comfortable you before the public relations interview, the more likely you will ace the interview.