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October 19, 2015 How To

Prepare to face the media: 15 tips for your next interview

When the media calls you for an interview, you need to be ready. Typically, there's little time to prepare, so it's best to be ready now for the call that could come at any time.

Here are some tips for when that call comes:

  • Ask what the angle is for the story. The reporter should be able to provide you with a broad overview of their story idea, which will give you useful insight into why they want to speak with you.
  • Google the reporter's name and publication to see their reporting style.
  • When the day comes, be ready for any potentially negative topics. They may come in to speak about your upcoming open house, but then ask about the scandal involving one of your officers that you thought went unnoticed.
  • Create a message map with the key messages you want to communicate.
  • Rehearse responses to the questions you anticipate they may ask.
  • Dress conservatively for television interviews, avoiding loud colors, striped shirts, whites or reds. Stick with pastels, especially blue.
  • Before the interview, while preparing to get started, a kind word to the reporter and to the videographer or photographer will go a long way. Good manners make for good business relationships!
  • During the interview, if you don't know the answer to a question, don't try to bluff your way through. Simply say, “I'm not an expert on that, but here's what I do know.” Then segue back to your pre-scripted talking points.
  • While on a television interview, make and hold eye contact. Focus on the person asking the questions, not the camera.
  • For print interviews, do not ask to see the article before it's published. This is not common practice and, to ask, it may seem as if you do not trust the reporter. It is up to you to be prepared for the questions. Only say things that you will be comfortable reading in print.
  • When the interview is over, typically a reporter will ask you, “Is there anything else you'd like to add?” So often, you're anxious to get the whole thing over with, and you'll say, “No!” Instead, take the opportunity to repeat your key message one more time.
  • Prepare a press release or a list of talking points to offer to the reporter to help in putting the story together. The reporter will appreciate having help.
  • After the interview, send a thank-you note and thank the reporter for their time and for reporting on the topic and/or your organization.
  • Ask when and where the final interview will be broadcasted, published or posted online.
  • Share the interview or story through all your social networks to extend the reach of the coverage for you and your organization.

Often we blame reporters for not getting the story right. But, as interviewees, we hold the power to control the message. By planning, anticipating, rehearsing and preparing in advance, we can act calm, cool and collected. If you appear anxious and nervous, that will definitely show through on a broadcast interview and a reporter will pick up on it for a print interview. Instead, take the time to prepare.

Nancy Marshall owns and operates Nancy Marshall Communications in Augusta. She can be reached at

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