Be Prepared for Media Interviews

By Katie Pemberton


So, you got a reporter to agree to write a story about you? That’s great. Media coverage in respected outlets can make a huge impact on awareness of your company or nonprofit. But just because you’ve gotten the story, that doesn’t mean the work is over. The interview is the most important part. Yes, you will be talking about your company and/or yourself, a topic you are extremely familiar with. But just because you know your subject matter doesn’t necessarily mean you know the best way to present it.

At Obsidian, a major part of what we do is preparing our clients for interviews, whether it’s a live in-studio TV or radio interview, a taped TV interview or a phone interview. Several of our clients have media-savvy leaders who have a lot of interview experience; in those cases, our media prep may be limited to sending a list of potential questions the interviewer might ask. In many cases, though, especially with representatives who have less media experience, our prep is more comprehensive.

Here are some quick tips:

Prepare. Have statistics, testimonials and other data handy so you can refer to it and give the reporter meaningful information to support your argument(s). Consider what kinds of questions the reporter might ask and practice your responses to those.

If you don’t know the answer, do NOT guess. It’s OK if you are doing an interview about a local hunger initiative and you don’t know how many people worldwide go hungry. But be honest about that and don’t guess the number – you never know who might repeat that number and use it again. In a case like this one, respond this way, “I’m actually not sure about the global hunger statistics, but what I can tell you is that one in four people in our community are uncertain where their next meal is coming from.”

Keep the interview on track. Especially in a live interview, the line of questioning can go off the rails quickly. Yes, it is the interviewer’s job to stay on topic, but you must share that burden if you want your message to be heard.

Speak only for yourself and your organization. There are very few scenarios in which you should talk about any other organization, and certainly you should never bad-mouth another organization.

Use positive language, and in your response, avoid repeating or introducing any negative language.

Don’t use jargon unless you are interviewing with a reporter who works only in your industry.

Channel your mother’s voice in your head, and sit up straight, use positive body language and be aware of your facial expressions.

Remember, every interview or scenario is different. The first piece of advice I gave is the most important one: prepare. Whether you do that with a colleague, friend or a trusted PR partner, you will never regret investing an hour into your company’s reputation.

Katie Pemberton is an account manager at Obsidian Public Relations, a Memphis-based public relations firm.