For Media Interview Success, Preparation is Key

Erik Bernstein crisis management

Preparedness is the not-so-secret weapon in productive interactions with the press

Preparing for a media interview is a pivotal moment for any professional or organization, serving as an opportunity to shape narratives, influence public perception, and communicate key messages. Whether you’re a seasoned spokesperson or facing the media for the first time, the importance of thorough preparation cannot be overstated. While going on record, particularly in front of a camera, is a stressful situation any way you slice it, preparing properly can help remove much of the automatic fear reaction that tends to take hold (thanks brain!). Let’s take a look at the most the essential aspects of gearing up for a media interview with a set of quick tips from our team of expert consultants.

  1. Understand the Media Outlet and Journalist: Before stepping into the interview, take the time to research the media outlet and the journalist conducting the interview. Understanding their audience, typical content style, and the journalist’s approach to stories will help you tailor your messages and anticipate the direction of the interview. This knowledge enables you to align your objectives with the interview’s context, making your participation more effective and targeted.
  2. Define Your Key Messages: Central to interview preparation is the crystallization of your key messages. Identify the core points you want to communicate, ensuring they are relevant, insightful, and aligned with your strategic goals. These messages should be concise, easily understood, and adaptable to various questions. Practicing these points will help embed them in your responses, ensuring that your primary messages are conveyed clearly to the audience, regardless of the interview’s direction.
  3. Anticipate and Prepare for Tough Questions: One of the hallmarks of effective preparation is anticipating challenging questions and crafting thoughtful responses in advance. Consider the current issues, controversies, or misunderstandings surrounding your topic, and prepare clear, composed answers. This preparation not only reduces the risk of being caught off guard but also demonstrates your credibility and control over the subject matter.
  4. Practice, Practice, Practice: Rehearsing for the interview is crucial. Practice delivering your key messages, answering tough questions, and transitioning back to your core points. Mock interviews with colleagues or communication professionals can provide valuable feedback on your delivery, body language, and ability to stay on message. This rehearsal process not only refines your content but also enhances your comfort and poise during the actual interview.
  5. Master the Art of Bridging: Bridging is a technique used to steer the conversation back to your key messages, especially after addressing a difficult question. Phrases like “What’s important to remember is…” or “What we’re hearing from our customers is that…” can help you transition smoothly back to your primary points. Mastering this skill ensures that you maintain control over the interview’s focus, highlighting the information you deem most important.
  6. Be Mindful of Non-Verbal Cues: Your body language, eye contact, and tone of voice play significant roles in conveying your message and credibility. Maintain open and positive body language, establish eye contact with the interviewer, and use a confident, calm tone. These non-verbal cues reinforce the content of your message and contribute to a positive impression. Look matters too, even in off-camera interviews. Remember that you’re trying to present a certain image and dress accordingly.
  7. Prepare for Different Interview Formats: Media interviews can vary widely in format, from live broadcasts and phone interviews to email questionnaires. Familiarize yourself with the format in advance and adjust your preparation accordingly. For instance, live interviews demand concise, immediate responses, while email interviews allow for more detailed answers. Tailoring your approach to the format can significantly impact the effectiveness of your communication.

A media interview is a powerful platform for delivering your messages and shaping public perception. By understanding the media landscape, defining and practicing your key messages, preparing for tough questions, mastering bridging techniques, and being mindful of non-verbal cues, you can navigate media interviews with confidence and strategic acumen. While the end goals of an interview may range from pure damage control to selling a new product or idea, thorough preparation not only enhances your ability to communicate effectively but also positions you and your organization more favorably in the public eye.

Erik Bernstein