Media Interview Tips: How to Get the Coverage You’re Hoping For!

After all of your hard work to interest an appropriate media channel (one that reaches your desired target audience) in a story about you or your business pays off, the work is just beginning! It may be hard to believe, but getting the interview is often the easy part — doing a good job during your interactions with the reporter is the really tough part. It’s what determines whether or not your name and information will ever see the light of day.

When we conduct media training, here are the general tips we share:

  • You’re not in charge; but while you can’t control, you can influence.
  • Be prepared! Never, never, never, EVER, try to “wing it.” Your lack of preparation will show.
  • Be aware of your background/environment and make sure it will serve you well. Watch out for cluttered backgrounds or any potentially negative impressions that the things around you might create.
  • Don’t expect to be the sole source for any story. Note: You can ask who else might be interviewed, but the reporter will often not tell you that, and they’re under no obligation to do so.
  • Respond to all questions in some way, but take advantage of opportunities to “circle back” to your key points.
  • Don’t respond to questions that you don’t “own” – whether from an organizational or community standpoint: “I’m not really the right person to respond to that question, but I can put you in touch with…,” “That really isn’t something we’re concerned with here…,” “It would not be appropriate for me to address…,” “I don’t have the information to…”
  • Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know.” Better to convey the right information later, than the wrong information now.
  • Take advantage of the frequently asked:  “Is there anything else you’d like to add?,” question at the end of an interview to emphasize your key messages.
  • Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself—you don’t know what sound bites will be used. It’s a good strategy to repeat your key messages throughout the interview.
  • Nothing is off limits! Just because the reporter says they want to ask you about one thing, doesn’t mean they won’t also ask you about something else.
  • Maintain your composure at all times; don’t become defensive; be aware of your body language.
  • Be helpful without being demanding: “If you have any questions, or want to check any details with me…,” NOT “I need to see this before it appears.”
  • There is no such thing as off-the-record. If you don’t want it reported, don’t say it.
  • Relationships matter. Be good to the media and they’ll be good to you.

Some questions to ask before the interview:

  • Can you tell me about the story you’re working on? Is there a particular perspective you hope to cover?
  • Who else will you be interviewing?
  • What will you need from me? – e.g. how much time will this take? Is there any background information we could provide?
  • Who will be doing the interview?
  • Are there any questions you could send me ahead of time so I can make sure to be prepared?
  • When will this piece publish/air?

Note: the reporter may not answer these questions, but it doesn’t hurt to ask!

What can you add to these lists?

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