I spent 4 hours last Saturday running a workshop with technology professionals on how to prepare for media interviews. These were 20 bright young people who wanted to acquire the skills to enable them communicate what they do to the general public. I shared 57 practical tips that, if applied, would transform their media interviews. Here are some of them.
Make a Plan
After conducting over 1,000 interviews on radio and TV, I am no longer surprised when I encounter interviewees who do not make a plan before meeting the media. It is so common for guests to appear in the studio and speak off the top of their heads resulting in an interview which lacks structure and literally goes all over the place. Do not allow that to happen to you. Once you agree to a media interview, plan what you will say on the air. You can do this by asking the producer a couple of questions:
What is the subject of the interview?
It may sound like an obvious question. After all, if you have been contacted by a producer, they must know what the subject of the interview is, right? Not quite. It does not hurt to clarify the topic so that everybody is on the same page. You may be a banker who also serves on the board of another company. You must be sure in which capacity you are being interviewed so you make the relevant preparations.
What is the purpose of the interview?
Are you being interviewed about a new product your company has launched? Are you expected to comment about an ongoing investigation by your industry’s regulatory authorities? Are your views being sought about your organization’s corporate social responsibilities? Make sure you are clear about what the goal of the interview is.
Where will the interview take place?
Radio interviews are mostly conducted over the phone while TV has a preference for seeing the guests either in the studio or on location elsewhere. Sometimes, radio interviews happen inside the studio and TV interviews are carried out on the phone. If you have to physically be at the studio, factor your travel time into your plans so you do not turn up late and miss out on a precious media opportunity.
When will the interview take place?
Did the producer tell you 7 o’clock? I once had a guest call my producer to apologize profusely for missing an interview opportunity. He assumed we would be talking to him at 7 in the evening and not in the morning. Make sure you confirm the time of the interview. With TV interviews, you may be asked to be at the studio 30 minutes before going on air so agreeing on the time is very important.
How long is the interview scheduled for?
The length of the interview is an important factor in planning your media interview. Planning for a ten-minute interview and a 30minute discussion requires different approaches. Shorter interviews require that you get to the point quickly because you do not have the luxury of time. Do not assume you have all the time in the world and then get disappointed when the interview ends far earlier than you expected.
These questions form the basic elements of your plan. Your answers to them will put you in a better position to make your radio or TV interview a success.