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How to prepare for a media interview

January, 2014

Imagine you have an interview with a journalist that could have a positive impact on your business, or perhaps mitigate the damage of a negative story – how should you prepare? Kent PR agency Maxim provides some top tips.

Be on time – The interview might be over the phone, or better still, face-to-face. It could even be a press conference with many journalists in attendance. Whichever it is – don’t be late. Reporters can’t afford to be left hanging around, they want to get the story, possibly interview other people about it, and then publish or broadcast it. You need to understand that you’re not the day’s only story – so be punctual.

Switch off the mobile and concentrate – This seems like an obvious suggestion, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t. Remove any distractions and ensure you’ve put aside enough time to do the interview properly. If you appear uninterested or eager to leave, the journalist will pick up on that and won’t give your story their full attention.

Do your homework – It’s your story so have all the key facts and figures to hand, otherwise you could look ill-informed. If you have a PR agency, make sure they have briefed you on the journalist, which media they represent, their news agenda, and the possible questions, including the potential negative ones that could trip you up.

Answer the questions – We’ve all listened to a politician being interviewed and screamed at the television or radio ‘answer the question’ as they tried to skirt around the issue. The journalist is there to do a job – let them. Don’t pull down the shutters as it’ll rankle them and certainly isn’t conducive to a positive interview – and coverage.

Keep your cool – Remember the journalist is doing their job and has given you their time. However, you’ve got to be prepared for the question you don’t want, especially if the story is fundamentally a negative one and the interview is seeking to mitigate any reputational damage. So when it comes to answering the questions, don’t resort to yes/no answers, and definitely don’t lose your temper.

Keep it simple – Unless you’re talking to reporters who are industry experts don’t blind your interviewer with jargon and acronyms.

Tell the truth – If you don’t, you’re giving the journalist a big stick with which to beat you, risking undermining your reputation. In the age of the internet, your untruths, even if they are little white lies, will be around for everyone else to see.

And finally, leave them satisfied – After answering their questions, make sure the journalist has fully understood the story and has everything they need. Be prepared to provide an image of the interviewee or be suitably attired in case they want to take a photograph. Don’t forget to say thank you at the end of the interview, and if appropriate, once the story has appeared.

posted in: advice, media relations, public relations, reputation management,

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