Think Twice Before Every Media InterviewMedia Competence
The request for an interview
You’ve received a call from a reporter who wants to interview you. Because you like the idea you want to confirm immediately. Wait a second! It is time for a competent decision-making. Think twice before you do a media interview. It may be a chance and it is full of risks.
When you work for a larger company ask for assistance before you decide. Contact the marketing department. The staff there can help you decide whether to grant the interview or help you prepare for an interview if you could use some advice. Especially if you are on your own: Think twice!
In my media training, we usually spend the majority of the time teaching the participants how to communicate during a media interview. I also tell them what they should do before their interview begins – or before they agree to the interview in the first place.
I recommend: Before agreeing to an interview, interview the interviewer. Learn as much as possible about the story they’re working on, as you’ll be able to prepare for the interview with greater precision as you learn more about it. Most journalists are willing to share at least the basics about the stories they’re working on, and some are willing to go into great detail about their stories.
Should you really do the interview?
In case you are uncertain that you want to be interviewed by the media, here are some points to consider:
- What is the subject and focus of the interview, and why did the reporter contact you and not someone else?
- Who else are they interviewing?
Reporters often play it close to the vest on this one, but it’s worth asking. You’ll often be able to get a sense for the tone of the article by learning whether the other sources in the story are friendly or antagonistic toward your cause.
- Is the subject currently in the news? How controversial is the subject? What are the risks and chances?
- What is the message you want to come across?
- Who is the reporter? What kind of reporter and personality is it?
- What news outlet does the reporter work for, and who is its audience?
- What do you know about the format (TV, radio, show, news, newspaper, magazine, …)?
For print interviews, ask whether reporters just need a quick quote from you or whether they are writing an in-depth piece that will focus extensively on your work. For broadcast interviews, you’ll be able to learn whether the interview will be live, live-to-tape, or edited. Also, ask how long the interview will last. For television, ask if the format will be a remote, on-set, or sound bites interview.
- Where and how will the interview be conducted (e.g., in person, on the phone, radio, video), and how long will the interview take?
- Does the reporter want to approach the story from any particular perspective?
Some reporters bristle when you ask directly “What is your angle?”, so ask the question in another way to get the same information in a slightly more subtle manner.
- Are you well prepared or if not is there enough time to be well prepared?
Given the fact that everything you say in a media interview can, and may, be shared by the journalist for posterity, it’s important to make sure you are completely prepared. If possible, ask for interview questions ahead of time.
- Are there any possible legal consequences?
In case it matters ask your advocate.
- Is the effort worth the investment?
Think twice before you do a media interview. It may be a chance and it is full of risks.