5 tips on preparing for a media interview

By Neil Everton

Just want to pass on five quick tips on dealing with the media. They are tips I shared today with students on a media relations course at Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia.

1 – Be clear about your business reason (strategic objective) for doing a media interview? The only reason for agreeing to an interview is because you have a message to deliver. (Being a nice person and answering a reporter’s questions is not a strong business reason).

2 – Define clearly and narrowly the point you want to make. No matter how complex the issue you are dealing with, you must distill it down to its essence. Better to make one point clearly than struggle to cover a range of topics.

3 – Accept that the longest sound bite is about 8 seconds. Practice expressing your key message in 7 or 8 seconds. (That’s 21 to 24 words). If you insist on giving long answers, you give the reporter permission to pick and choose sections within your answer; that’s why people complain about being taken out of context.

4 – Be conversational. Sometimes people feel they need to inflate their language to do justice to a big announcement. They use polysyllabic words and complex constructions they never use in everyday speech. Keep it simple. Smaller words and shorter sentences are always more effective. Remember the ‘Hi Mom’ trick we’ve written about in connection with presentation skills training.

5 – Anticipate the difficult questions. Journalists are trained to be skeptical. Most of their questions will probe and challenge your message. That’s their job. Your job is to anticipate the challenges, and figure out how you can bridge back to your key message.

Thanks to Janice Landry for inviting Podium Coaching to talk to the group.

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