Successful media interviews

- February 23, 2008 3 MIN READ

Successful media interviews are a great way to promote your business. But if you’re unfamiliar with being interviewed, you may get daunted by the prospect. Rather than saying no to the opportunity, there are ways you can eliminate unnecessary fears.

Even though I’m reasonably experienced with media interviews, I find a degree of nerves are normal. Even though the audience are unlikely to notice your anxiety, it will help you if you feel in control.

Here are ways to minimise anxiety when facing media interviews.

1. Prepare

Live radio or television means you’ve only got one chance to get it right. Use your expertise of your subject to consider possible questions and prepare answers accordingly. Practice by asking a friend to run through these questions.

Find out as much as you can about the program on which you’re appearing – is it live or pre-recorded? What angle are they taking? What are they expecting from you? Is the audience general or targeted? Ensure your points are interesting, useful and relevant to the appropriate audience.

2. Stick to the point

It’s really useful to prepare three or four main points you wish to get across. I was interviewed on the Qantas Talking Business program. The main purpose was to promote my book so I made sure I said the book’s name.

If possible, write your points on a sticky note and refer to it. Most radio interviews take less than four minutes so always keep to the point and avoid being drawn into side issues. Do your best to take control and use every opportunity to get your message across. Don’t wait to be asked the appropriate question.

3. Give yourself time to think about your answers

The phone rings and, unexpectedly, a journalist is on the line asking you questions about your business and its activities. How do you handle it? Your reputation may depend on the answers you give so don’t be afraid to call the journalist back rather than talking off the top of your head.

Ensure, though, you find out their deadline and don’t leave it too late to respond. Meantime, think through what you should be putting across, particularly in response to any possible controversial issues.

Want more articles like this? Check out the Public relations, PR section.

4. Have something to say

If there are controversial issues in your area of expertise, work out where you stand and what you should say. Don’t be afraid to take a position, better that than say “no comment”.

5. Make your media interview interesting and relevant

Using real stories and examples makes your message more memorable and helps cut through the clutter. When you have facts to back yourself up, you will come over as more authoritative.

Remember to emphasise the points that are likely to interest the listeners or viewers.

6. Make it personable

If you’re doing a media interview face-to-face, use eye contact and try to interest the interviewer in the discussion rather than thinking – do I sound/look okay? If your eyes flicker around you look uncomfortable and possibly a bit shifty!

Keep your eye-line focused on the interviewer and you will come over as being in command of your subject. Also, use the interviewer’s name when answering questions.

7. Be buoyant and enthusiastic

Remember, boring answers will be edited out and boring media interviews may be dropped altogether. You need to be slightly more animated and larger than life. Pep up your delivery so that it is bright and enthusiastic, rather than dull and low-key. After all, the media is entertainment and broadcasting is a performance!

8. Mind your language

Think about the way you talk about work– does conversation include abbreviations, technical terms and other jargon? If so, it has to go. Imagine chatting to someone who’s perfectly intelligent, but doesn’t know anything about your subject.

9. Keep comments concise

Catchy short answers work best in successful media interviews, especially for television news. They’re known as “grabs” or “sound bites” and can be slotted in to a news story. If you watch the news, or listen to radio news, you’ll notice that they are about 5 to 7 seconds long. If you don’t give enough information the journalist will simply ask a follow-up question.

10. Be available for media interviews

Be prepared to go into the studio for radio interviews – they’re better quality than over the phone. If you do use a phone, ensure it’s a landline, not a mobile and try to eliminate background noise.

11. Warm up your voice

This will help you sound more articulate, intelligent and authoritative which will give you more confidence and ensure a more successful media interview.

12. Include a call to action

Most people will remember the opening and closing of a radio interview so always have a strong closing that includes a call to action, i.e. something you want listeners to do such as attend the event or buy the product.

And finally remember to smile as you’ll feel and sound much friendlier. Enjoy it!