Public Relations

How to Prepare for a Media Interview: Best Practices for 2024

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Media interviews can take many forms. Some are conducted for print publications such as newspapers or magazines. Others are video interviews that can appear in a television broadcast or online through a media outlet or social media. In either case, knowing how to prepare for a media interview is critical for conveying key messages shaping narratives that will benefit your business.

It’s important to remember that any interview with a reporter isn’t just for a single story. Most reporters cover a beat, and the impression you make in every interview with a reporter sets the tone for not only the story they are working on but the entirety of the relationship.

With adequate media training and interview preparation, a spokesperson can ensure their messages are accurately portrayed in the story, avoid negative media coverage, and build a trusted relationship with a reporter where they look to the spokesperson as an expert source for stories they are working on. 

Understanding the Media Landscape

Today’s media landscape is vast and varied, offering numerous avenues for individuals and organizations to share their stories, perspectives, and expertise. Whether through traditional print publications, broadcast media, or the ever-expanding digital sphere, understanding the nuances of each medium is crucial for effectively communicating your message when preparing for a media interview.

Type of Media Interviews

Media interviews come in different formats, each with its unique characteristics and audience reach. Media training can also help understand these various formats and how to convey your key messages on other types of interviews effectively. Understanding these formats can help you prepare effectively and maximize your media opportunities. 

Print Interviews: Print interviews typically involve journalists from newspapers, magazines, or online publications. These interviews are often conducted over the phone, via video conference line, or in person and may result in a written article or feature.

Print interviews offer several advantages. By default, all journalist interactions are on the record, but in an interview for a print story, a spokesperson can also share information on background or off the record. This allows the spokesperson to add details they cannot speak to in print to validate their authority on a subject or send the journalist in the right direction to find other sources for their story. Interviews for print publications can also reach a broad audience over time since they typically result in a story published online. 

Broadcast Interviews: Broadcast interviews encompass television and radio appearances. Television interviews are visual and often live or recorded for later broadcast, while radio interviews are audio-only and can be live or pre-recorded. Broadcast interviews provide a dynamic platform for engaging with audiences in real time and offer opportunities for visual or audio cues to enhance your message.

Digital Interviews: With the rise of digital media, interviews conducted for online platforms, such as podcasts, video blogs, and webinars, have become increasingly popular. Digital interviews offer content format and distribution flexibility and can cater to niche audiences with specific interests or demographics.

Differences Between Media Outlets

TV: Television reaches a broad audience and often emphasizes visual storytelling. TV interviews tend to be concise and visually engaging, requiring speakers to communicate effectively within limited time frames that fit into short TV segments.

Radio: Radio provides an intimate medium for reaching listeners through audio content. Radio interviews rely heavily on verbal communication and are often conversational, allowing for a more relaxed and informal tone.

Podcasts: Podcasts offer on-demand audio (and, in some cases, visual) content that caters to specific interests or niche topics. Podcast interviews can be long-form and detailed, which allows for in-depth discussions and exploration of complex issues.

Video for Digital Channels: Video content on digital platforms, such as YouTube or social media, combines the visual appeal of television with the accessibility of online media. Video interviews can vary in length and format, ranging from short clips to long-form documentaries, depending on the platform and audience preferences.

Importance of tailoring your approach based on the medium 

It’s critical to tailor your approach to each medium to maximize the impact of your media interactions. As you prepare for your interview and in media training, consider the following tips:

Preparing for an Interview 

Research the Interviewer and Media Outlet 

The first step in preparing for a media interview is to research the individuals conducting the interview and the media outlet they represent. This step will provide valuable insights into their backgrounds, interests, and journalistic style.

Interviewer: Learn about the interviewer’s professional background, past work, and areas of expertise. The best way to do this is by reading the reporter’s past stories on a topic similar to the topic of the interview. This will help you develop an understanding of their perspective and interests, which can help you tailor your responses and establish rapport during the interview.

Media Outlet: Familiarize yourself with the media outlet’s audience, tone, and coverage areas. Explore previous interviews and articles across the publication to understand their style and editorial focus. This knowledge should help inform your messaging and ensure alignment with the outlet’s brand and values. For example, if the media outlet portrays a strictly data-driven, factual tone throughout – then it’s best to keep the interview in the same tone. 

Understand the Audience and their Interests 

Every interview is an opportunity to connect with a specific audience and address their interests and concerns. Take the time to research the demographics, preferences, and expectations of the audience associated with the media outlet. Demographics can shift based on various factors, notably the type of medium and outlet. For example, the demographic for a TV station in a small town will be different from that of a nationally televised business segment. 

Demographics: To tailor your message effectively, consider the audience’s age, gender, education level, and interests. Adapt your language, tone, and content to resonate with their preferences and values. For example, trade publication readers are likely more up-to-date on issues in that sector than a national general business audience. 

Interests: Identify the key topics or themes likely to resonate with the audience and align with the media outlet’s editorial focus. Highlighting shared interests and addressing relevant issues will enhance your message’s relevance and impact. 

Craft Key Narratives and Talking Points 

Crafting compelling narratives and talking points is essential for delivering a clear, concise, and memorable message during the interview. Develop critical themes and messages that align with your goals and resonate with the audience. It is essential to take the reporter’s expectations into account here.

For example, suppose a reporter is expecting to speak with you about trends you are seeing from customers about a national business story. In that case, this is not the time to focus talking points around your new product release that does not have to do with the news at hand. 

  1. Identify Core Messages: Distil your ideas into concise, memorable messages that encapsulate your core values and priorities. These messages will serve as the foundation for your responses and guide the direction of the interview.
  2. Support your messages: Be sure to illustrate your points and engage the audience emotionally. Personal anecdotes, case studies, and examples can bring your message to life and make it more relatable and memorable. Tangible, real-life occurrences are great here, and if you have a great case study or client example, use it—even if you can’t say the client’s name. 

Identify and Prepare for Anticipated Questions 

Anticipating and preparing for potential questions is essential for maintaining confidence and composure during the interview. While you can’t predict every question, anticipating common themes and preparing thoughtful responses will help you easily convey your key points and answer tricky questions.

Brainstorm Questions: Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and brainstorm a list of potential questions they may ask based on their background, the topic at hand, and current events. Consider both general questions and specific inquiries related to your expertise or experiences. 

Develop Responses: Prepare concise responses to anticipated questions, focusing on key messages and supporting evidence. Bullet point responses are typically best for preparation. In an interview, you do not want to sound like your responses are pre-determined or rehearsed, but bullet points can help you stay on track when answering questions and ensure you hit on all key points you want to convey.

Practical Tips for Success 

Dress Appropriately for the Camera

Some journalists still prefer telephone interviews, but today, most interviews have a video element – a Zoom call or a recorded video and audio conversation. In on- camera interviews your appearance plays a significant role. Here are some tips for dressing appropriately for the occasion:

Choose Professional Attire: Opt for clothing that conveys professionalism and aligns with the tone and expectations of the interview. Avoid hoodies, distracting patterns, logos, or accessories that may detract from your message.

Pay Attention to Colors: Choose solid colors that complement your skin tone and contrast nicely with the background. Ensure your at-home background is appropriate for the interview setting for video interviews. 

Familiarize Yourself with the Interview Setup

Familiarizing yourself with the interview setup can help alleviate nerves and ensure a smooth and successful experience. Here’s how to make the most of your pre-interview preparation:

Review your setup for an at-home interview: An interview is not the appropriate time to test a new webcam or microphone. Test your setup beforehand and ensure you have a good internet connection during the interview. Interviews are typically short, and technical distractions may reduce the time needed to get your point across. 

For an in-person interview, Be sure to arrive in advance, review the interview setup, and communicate with the production team. You want to be as prepared as possible for when the cameras start rolling so you can convey key messages comfortably.

Bring Supporting Material (if applicable)

Supporting material varies based on the interview topic and layout, but it should help support your core messages and capture your audience’s attention. A few types of supporting material to consider: 

Visuals: If you are on a TV segment or video interview, it might make sense to present a visual aid such as the product you are discussing, graphs, or short slides. You do want to use these visual aids sparingly, though, to illustrate key points, keeping the focus on your message and delivery.

Supporting documentation: Supporting documentation can include data, papers, research, and more that help convey your key messages. It may be helpful for print interviews and can be shared after the call. 

Consult a Media Training Coach 

Working with a media training coach can be invaluable for individuals seeking to enhance their media interview skills. A media training coach can provide personalized guidance, feedback, and practical strategies for mastering media interviews:

  1. Receive Expert Feedback: A media training coach can assess your strengths and areas for improvement, providing constructive feedback to help you refine your on-camera presence and communication style.
  2. Practice Techniques and Strategies: Work with a media training coach to practice interview scenarios, develop effective messaging strategies, and improve your delivery and confidence.
  3. Gain Confidence and Poise: Through tailored coaching sessions and simulated interviews, you can gain the confidence and poise needed to navigate media interviews with ease and professionalism.

Examples of Successful Media Interviews

Phone Interview for Print Q&A

For this cover story in Intelligent Fin.Tech Magazine, Sopra Banking Software CEO Eric Bierry joined a web conference with the editor, who then transcribed his answers in a Q&A style for the magazine’s cover spread.

Phone Interview for Print Feature

For this feature story in TechCrunch, the reporter sat down with the Zūm Rails founders and worked their comments into a larger feature story about their funding news.

On-air Interview

For this on-air interview with News 12, Paul Walsh, CEO, NA of Meteomatics, spoke with the reporter for a pre-recorded interview that aired on a live TV segment. 

Our Approach at Channel V Media 

Preparation is key before any media interview to ensure you best portray yourself and convey your key messaging points. Preparation helps you understand what the reporter is looking for in their interview and how to present yourself to not only secure positive media coverage but also build a solid relationship for future stories. 

At Channel V Media, we are committed to ensuring our clients are prepared for all media interviews by providing a briefing document and conducting preparation calls as needed. We always want to ensure our clients are comfortable and ready to convey their key messaging points to reporters.

Our team at Channel V Media can help you best prepare for upcoming media interviews; contact our team to learn more

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