Every media interview you take part in is a chance to share your key messages with new audiences. Preparation can mean the difference between success and failure, but it can be hard to know how to prepare effectively for your next media interview.
Journalists will often look to ask questions that make you think on your feet, so it’s easy to get caught out. However, effective preparation will allow you to have the upper hand whenever you’re being interviewed, no matter what gets asked.
Read on to learn how you can get the most out of your next media interview and how you can craft effective messages.
Know exactly what you want to say
No two media interviews are alike, so you need to be prepared for any occasion. Whether it’s a hard-hitting investigative conversation or a more promotional chat, there’s no reason why you should get caught off-guard by a curveball question (provided you’ve prepared correctly).
Before your next interview, ask yourself things like:
- What do I want to get out of this interview?
- What are the key messages I need to present?
- How can I ensure that the interview goes smoothly?
- What will I do if I get a question that I wasn’t expecting?
If you’re not able to answer these questions yourself, then working with a seasoned media professional can give you the guidance you need to make your next interview your best one yet.
Understand how to present an effective message
Now that you know what you want to say in your next media interview, it’s important to hone your delivery. Many interviews will be edited for clarity and time, so ensure you’re including your key messages in each answer (where relevant), rather than just mentioning them once.
When you do answer a question, ensure your answer is:
- Short and sharp – try to keep your answers to between 30 and 60 seconds long
- Informative – try to provide new/exciting information where possible, rather than re-treading ground that may have been previously covered in the media
- Confident – you are the one who’s been asked about your opinions on a topic/incident, so answer accordingly
- On message – have you answered the question in a way that furthers the message you’re trying to convey?
There are many ways to answer questions in an interview and talking with the interviewer beforehand can give you an insight into what they’re looking to get out of the conversation. An interview is an exchange, and both the interviewee and interviewer have goals they want to achieve.
Know what types of questions you may be asked
It is also worth doing your research on the person/s who will be interviewing you, so you can get a sense of what questions they may be looking to ask. Talk to those in your network who may have been interviewed by them previously and consume some of their previous interviews.
There are different types of questions that you may be asked, and interviewers may favour one type over the others. Examples of the types of questions you may be asked include:
- Negative premise questions – “Why has your organisation failed so badly to address such an important issue?”
- Headline-seeking questions – “In your opinion, what do you think has been the government’s biggest failure?”
- Yes/no questions – “Has the government done enough to support the people of Australia?”
- Hypothetical questions – “What would the department do if there was another pandemic?”
Knowing the types of questions you may be asked can help guide the approach you take to answering. If you get asked a negative premise question, don’t repeat the negative premise in your answer, as that gives the media a negative quote (which is often what they’re looking for from an interview).
Don’t feel compelled to provide a yes or a no answer. Instead, you can take a more neutral approach and elaborate on why your organisation is responding in a particular way. It’s a similar situation with hypotheticals. Instead of engaging with hypotheticals, you can respond by grounding your response in events that have or will occur, rather than taking the question’s premise at face value. For example: “I don’t want to speculate on whether there will be another pandemic but what I can tell you is our department is totally committed to protecting the health of all Australians. We have listened to the best health advice and we will always be guided by the experts.”
Avoid falling into familiar interview traps
If you’re being interviewed as a subject matter expert, it can be easy to make your answers too complicated for the general public. This is where interviewees can fail to connect with the audience they’re speaking to because they’re using terms and concepts that people don’t necessarily understand.
When you’re preparing your key points for your next media interview, make sure you avoid:
- Technical jargon – keep it simple
- Long-winded explanations – make sure your answers are short and snappy
- Pre-established knowledge – not everyone is as passionate about your specialty as you are
- Wishy-washy language – speak with authority so people connect with your messaging
Want to make your next media interview a success? Proper preparation with a media professional can provide you with invaluable information about how to handle future media appearances. Simulated exercises will give you the confidence to be interviewed on-camera, on the radio or in print, with sessions tailored to help you improve in the areas that really matter. If you’re looking to find out more about our media services, click here, or get in contact with us at email@example.com.