Five tips for a successful media interview

As a former journalist, I know many people have a deep-seated distrust of reporters. Interviewees worry about being tricked and being taken out of context. Here are my top five tips for ensuring you have a successful media interview, no matter how challenging.

1 – Be clear about your business reason (strategic objective) for doing a media interview. The only reason for agreeing to a media interview is because you have a message to deliver.

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.

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.

Remember, when it comes to a media interview, you are not there to answer every question. You are there to deliver your message. Make sure you stay, as much as possible, on your agenda rather than the reporter’s.