How to Prepare For a Media Interview with a Journalist or Blogger

October 14, 2014 • Business, How To

10 Tips You Can Use to Rock Your Next Media Interview (and feel great, too!)

Over the past year, I’ve interviewed dozens of people – for my job, college admissions, my site, and for various websites that I freelance write for. I’ve even been interviewed myself. (Click here to watch me on FOX Good Day NY). Talking to people and learning their stories are passions of mine. Conducting interviews, like other things, is a skill that you get better with over time. Knowing how to ask the right questions, get others to feel comfortable around you, and scoring that the winning “sound bite” isn’t always easy. Thanks to great mentors, editors (and time), I’ve been getting a lot better at it.

At the same time, being interviewed is no walk in the park! If you’re not used to talking about yourself (or something else) and don’t feel comfortable being put on the spot, it can take some time until you’re an interview “pro”. (Most people have professionals who help them with this! It’s tough.)

Here’s 10 ways that you can beat those fears of yours and totally SHINE in your next media interview.

 1. Relax

Anxiety can kill your interview by wrecking your nerves. Before you are about to talk to the media, do some deep breathing. Don’t think about everything that could go wrong. Think positively and imagine the interview going just the way you want it to.

2. Speak slowly.

Throughout my life, I’ve been known to be a fast talker. I always used to justify this by saying, “It’s just who I am.” Boy, was I wrong! Speaking fast during an interview can be really really bad. What you have to understand is just because you can understand yourself doesn’t mean others will. If you are known to talk fast, try slowing it down when you’re behind the mic. If you’re nervous, this can also help quell some of those anxieties.

3. When in doubt- keep it short.

Editing down an interview (whether it’s video, audio, or for print) can be extremely difficult. The interviewer doesn’t need to know the backstory to the backstory of the story that you are telling. Let your thoughts end naturally, if you feel like you have to think about what to say next, chances are you don’t need to say anything else. If the interviewer wants to know more, he/she can always follow up with another question.

4. Don’t ramble about nonsense.

This relates directly to #3. One of my pet peeves is when people go extremely off subject. If you’re being interviewed about business., don’t turn it into a conversation about how much you hate cold weather. Many media outlets are on deadlines and reporters/bloggers don’t have hours to hear the stories about your noisy neighbors and the bad pizza you had the day before. As much as you can help it, try to keep your answers on topic.

5. Tell a story. Be inspirational.

Why are you being interviewed? Someone found your “story” interesting. I love to start my BRANDMAKERS interviews with the question: What inspired you to….? This is your time to tell me the story of your brand. Be creative. Be descriptive. Have a beginning, turning point, climax, and end. Think: What would you be interested in if you were hearing your story for the first time?

6. Prepare talking points that people can relate to.

When I was working at the Vera Institute of Justice, I interviewed many criminal justice experts for my Unlocking Potential: Perspectives on Prison Education blog series. One of my favorite interviewees Glenn Martin of Just Leadership USA, always brought his answers back to his overall mission of cutting the prison population in half by 2020. Was he pushing his agenda? Maybe. Was I mad at him? No. What’s the key message that you want to get out about the product/issue? What are some key “talking points” that you can naturally weave into your answers. It sucks when you complete an interview and never get the main ideas you want to share out. Though the interviewer controls the questions, you control the answers. If the purpose of the interview is for you to advance an agenda or highlight your product, don’t miss the opportunity to do so because you didn’t prepare. Great interviews are focused and talk to issues that people can relate to. Think about universal ideals such as love, jealously, family,etc.How does your story relate?

7. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want repeated.

One of my pet peeves is when I interview people and they, “Let’s keep this off the record.” If you’d like to keep something off the record, just don’t say it. It makes things easier for the interviewer. Sometimes I’ll have people who will tell me a very interesting story but then ask if I don’t mention it in the article. That’s pretty unfair, don’t you think?! It also can save you in the long run. If you know you aren’t supposed to talk about something (or someone), just don’t do it. Not every journalist will respect your wishes of “keeping it off the record.”

 8. Practice answering outrageous questions.

I’m not going to lie. Sometimes I like asking my subjects strange questions. Ask a friend to ask you off-the-wall questions- something that may anger, excite, or shock you. Knowing how to respond to different prompts can help you keep learn how to manage your reaction (or lack thereof) during an actual interview.

9. Be Yourself. Personality is important.

We all have a unique personality that makes us who we are. The worst thing you could do is go into an interview and lose sense of yourself. If you’re someone who is upbeat, be upbeat. If you’re sarcastic, be sarcastic. People can smell fake a mile away.

 10. Follow Up.

Keep track of all interviews you do. Ask the journalist for all information they need such as press releases, photos, biographical information, and posting dates. Not every outlet has time to notify subjects when a post goes live. Google Alerts are one automated way to keep track of your media mentions. Don’t forget to send a nice thank you note to the person who interviewed you. If there’s any false information in the article, be sure to notify the journalist (or outlet) and ask for a correction. Due diligence on your part is worth the effort. Most times, it’s pretty easy to go back and make small changes. However, there are times you’ll do an interview and absolutely hate the story. That’s the risk we all run with doing interviews. Sometimes your vision doesn’t always match the vision of the interviewer. It happens, but don’t let it deter you from doing more interviews in the future. One tip is to ask the interviewer beforehand what the focus of the article will be. Don’t wait until it’s posted to be surprised.

 

I hope these tips were helpful for the next time you’re doing a media interview! Remember, everything in life is all about practice so if you don’t get it right the first time, there’s always next time.

 

Continue to #shineon!

 

What’s something you think is missing from this list? Share in the COMMENTS section.

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Rana Campbell is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Ranacampbell.com, a site dedicated to personal branding and helping people learn how to SHINE in their personal and professional lives.

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  • Rana, great tips on interview preparation. Interviews are an excellent way to gain exposure and also for the brand itself. Which do you think is easier? Written interviews via email or live interviews via phone or recorder? Bloggers are certainly busy people so I wonder which method would be easier to facilitate?
    Thank you for sharing these helpful tips!

    • Hi Bridget,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. It all depends not the blogger. Personally, I like doing interviews via phone directly with my subjects. This is the most personable and also great for asking follow-up question. For more straight Q&A interviews, a written one via email can work, but you run the risk of not really talking to the person directly. If you are interviewing someone high-profile and they submit answers via email, it might actually be their PR/Marketing team. The downside to recorded interviews is transcription and editing time. However, if you have a team working for you, that might not be so bad. Pros and Cons to both but I prefer audio-recorded interviews.