Your social media and PR activity has reached the media: you’ve been contacted by a journalist for an interview. You know your topic and your message, now you need to prepare for the interview and present yourself as
Digital media has added many opportunities to be interviewed and deliver your message to your target audience. Both interview pros and newcomers can easily be tripped-up by the interview process. Media and PR expert Kathryn Bechthold has personally given hundreds of media interviews, and trains her clients to avoid making common media interview mistakes.
3 Common Media Interview Blunders
1. Don’t use industry jargon
You are being interviewed to talk about a specific topic because your interviewer has researched for an expert on a specific topic, or because you have been pitching your story to the media to get coverage for your new project. You need to create a key message for this interview.
A key message is the most important thing you want your audience to remember after the interview.
Your key message should be clearly understood and not use industry jargon. Your job is to prepare for the interview by creating your key message in advance, and practice delivering before the actual interview.
2. Never go off the record
If you choose to proceed with an off-the-record interview anyway, you should keep the following four tips in mind:
1. Consult with a communications professional – either in your own company, organization, or agency – or with an external firm, preferably one with crisis communications capabilities. You may be unaware of the landmines that exist in your specific case.
2. Consider your relationship with the reporter. Journalists you know well and who have treated you fairly for several years are generally safer risks than reporters you are working with for the first time.
3. Ask the reporter to define exactly what off-the-record means to him or her, preferably in writing.
4. Make any agreements with a reporter in advance of the interview. You can’t say something interesting and then suddenly declare it off the record.
Regardless of any agreement you make, you may still be identified by name as the source. Therefore, the most prudent advice is to remain on-the-record at all times. Even if your name isn’t used, the words a reporter uses to describe your position may make your identity perfectly clear. Unless you’re fully prepared to take that risk, don’t ever speak off-the-record.
3. Always let the interviewer finish their question
In your eagerness to deliver your message to your audience, be careful not to cut the interviewer off before they complete their question. You may be anticipating the wrong question – and give the wrong answer; and you may offend the interviewer and make them hostile to your message. Always listen carefully to the media’s question before you deliver your response.
TIP: Congratulations: your pitch worked, and you have an interview with a journalist – now what? Download our free ebook: Media Appearance Preparation and Tip Guide filled with PR pro Kathryn Bechthold’s expert advice for media interviews.