You have not had any media training but suddenly a key media outlet is on the phone or at your office requesting an interview. Use the guidelines below to get you through an unexpected opportunity in a pinch.
1. Be professional at all times. Interviews are not conversations. Remember that reporters represent the public and will sometimes ask hard or even deliberately leading questions to elicit an emotional or sensational response from you. Be professional at all times; do not slip into a conversational mode.
2. Set the agenda on what you want to get across in an interview. Select a few key points and be certain to cover them regardless of what specific questions the reporter may ask.
3. Steer the interview in any direction you choose. If you are good at it, you can use a reporter’s questions to springboard to the area you want covered. This is legitimate technique for conveying your key messages.
4. Reporters are not necessarily experts. More often they are generalists. Don’t assume they will know anything, yet alone everything about your area of expertise. Provide them with good, concise background material prior to or after an interview.
5. Reporters come in all personality types. Don’t put them all in any one category – “friends” or “out to get a sensational story.” And don’t assume that the same reporter will always have the same approach.
6. There is no such thing as “off the record.” If you don’t want something to appear in print or on the air, do NOT say it.
7. Control your emotions. Before and during interviews: breathe deeply…take time to gather your thoughts…be serious when appropriate and animated when appropriate.
8. Do not answer a question that you don’t know how to answer. Tell the reporter you will get back to him/her as soon as possible. Call back as soon as possible with the requested information.
9. Tell the truth. If you don’t, your credibility is ruined. If you cannot absolutely divulge information, say so, and state why. Do NOT say “no comment”; it will appear that you are not being honest or withholding information.
10. When interviewing for a live TV segment, dress appropriately at all times. Your overall appearance reflects upon you and upon your business.