This is part one in a three-part series on how to conduct a successful interview with the media.
Being interviewed by the media can be nerve-wracking, no matter how many times you’ve done it. However, interviews don’t have to be painful experiences; with the right amount of understanding and preparation, anyone can make it through an interview like a pro. The best way to ensure you start off on the right foot is to understand the media, so you better know what to expect. Before your interview, consider the following points:
Media format: Whether you’re being interviewed for print/online, radio, or broadcast news can greatly determine how your interview takes place.
Broadcast interviews (radio and television) require short, concise answers. Find out if your segment will be taped or live. Sounds bites pulled from taped interviews are often less than ten seconds long-- that's about ten words! While interviewing for a taped interview, you may want to go into more explanatory details, with the knowledge that not everything will be used. In live interviews, however, you must be extremely concise and hit your message again and again.
Television interviews rely heavily on visuals, so make sure you get enough sleep and look professional. The producer may ask to interview you outside, or somewhere with a visually-appealing, but not distracting, background.
Radio interviews may differ depending on if you speak with a newsman (straight questions and answers), a disc jockey (more stylistic interviews), or members of the public through a call-in segment.
Print and online interviews allow for longer, more detailed answers (but not too long!). Say only what you’d want to see in print, keep to your points, and assume everything is on the record. If you make an assertion, be prepared to back it up with evidence.
Goal of the journalist: The ultimate goal of a journalist is to craft a compelling, informative story. The journalist is in charge of creating the narrative. You are a source, providing a viewpoint or information for one side of their story. Do not be surprised--or offended--if a journalist does not want to hear about every facet of your organization. Journalists are usually diligent researchers, and will probably already have an idea of what they want you to say in the interview.
Journalists: people first, reporters second. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that all journalists are just regular people, doing their job. They aren’t your friend, but they also aren’t your enemy. With newsrooms across the country cutting staff to try and make ends meet, it’s likely your journalist is stretched pretty thin. Keep in mind that a little respect could go a long way.
Check back for part two: Preparing for the interview.