15 Tactics for Media Interviews

Thanks to a good friend of Clear Creek Digital, we have provided a list of tactics and information anyone should utilize when working with the media. Being in front of reporters and cameras can be overwhelming, but following through on these strategies can help you when the time comes.

1.  Be prepared - Know the attributes of your initiative cold. Then, formulate messages that you want to deliver during the interview and work them into the interview, even if the interviewer is taking you in another direction. You must also anticipate tough questions: what might they ask you and how can you best answer it (it will happen).

2.  Bridge back to your messages - It’s the most important thing anyone can tell you in media training. Your messages are your job in any interview. When facing a tough question, bridge back. When asked about a topic out of your area, bridge back. When questioned about the competition, bridge back. There is one question no reporter will ever ask you: “Tell me, sir, what are your key messages?”

3.   For radio think “short” – Radio is very effective medium for your message: it’s a 4-5 minute conversation on your topic…and it’s free. Use the time wisely. Get your messages out as close to the top of the interview as possible. Remember: messages are your responsibility, not the interviewer’s. Be concise. In broadcasting, they sell time. It’s a commodity. We should respect that notion. And smile, be enthusiastic and it will come travel through to the listener.  

4.   Avoid traps – Don’t allow questioners to lure you out of your area of expertise. Simply tell the interviewer that “we’ll get you an answer” from someone qualified in that area.

5.   No comment – Those are the two words you never say in an interview. After all, there’s always something you can say: say it and move on. “No Comment” seems abrupt, even impolite. The phrase also tends to energize reporters who believe you’re hiding something and they feel determined to find out what it is.

6.   Avoid jargon/acronyms – Such language is exclusive. Good communication is inclusive. Avoid using the acronyms when you can.

7.   Be yourself – You don’t have to be a TV anchorperson to be effective on TV: the audience is only interested in what you have to say.

8.   Be comfortable with silence: Reporters use silence to get you to talk more, be okay with your response and don't get caught rambling.

9.   Examples – A good personal anecdote about your initiative adds texture and authenticity to your presentation. Humanity counts.

10.  How to handle “nasty” – When exposed to a reporter who is a bulldog on a particular subject, be polite and consistent in your answer. Your answer is your answer. You don’t need to change it because the reporter wants something different. Answer on your own terms, not on the interviewer’s.

11.   Don’t echo a negative - If, for example, a reporter asks: “So, aren’t you dealing with a flawed design with that car.” Don’t start your answer by saying, “No, we don’t think it’s a flawed design”. Instead, go to your own characterization. For example, “Well, here’s how we see it…” or “There are a couple of elements you have to keep in mind about this car…”. If you had started with the negative, it’s guaranteed that that phrase would have been in your sound bite on TV.

12.  Never speculate – Don’t guess. Once you’ve offered a metric or made a claim, reporters treat it as gospel. They don’t write down the “don’t hold me to this…” or “well, I think it might be…”. They simply write down the number.

13.  Never lie – Even if you think the truth will embarrass a colleague…or jeopardize an initiative? Resist. Tell the truth. Reporters will pursue a lie endlessly and your messages will be left in the dust.

14.  REASSURE…REASSURE…REASSURE – This is your overarching objective in any interview: to reassure that interviewer and his/her audience about your policies, products, and processes. For those few minutes, you have as much influence as the CEO or the Chairman. Be prepared. Use the time wisely.

15.  Famous last words: Make sure your last words are good ones: often the last question is the reporter’s lead, the sound bite on TV or the most memorable answer, so make sure you end the interview on your high note.