23 Mar Media Training 101: Ten Tips for a Great Interview
In PR, booking an interview for your client is an exciting moment. It can also be an intimidating moment for any client who’s never talked to the press before. And that’s where media training comes into play. You’ll frequently see members of the Squad working with our clients to make sure they know what to expect when talking with a reporter and how to make a great impression—whether they’re being interviewed over the phone, in person or on camera. The ultimate goal is to give every reporter a clear sense of the work our clients are doing and why it’s different, and media training helps make that happen.
Read on for some of our favorite media training tips and tricks for nailing an interview.
Master the Intro
Begin the call with a thorough introduction of yourself and your role. Be prepared to provide a high-level overview of your business, its value proposition and sample customers to frame the interview. Remember: positivity and passion are the most important things to convey. You’ll also want to keep an ear out for the “rushed start,” where reporters jump right into a line of specific questions—before getting a sense of the bigger picture, and why you and your company are qualified to speak to different topics. Make sure you work in the basics before diving into the details.
It’s much more powerful to talk about the impact a product or service had on a specific customer or business, versus the potential impact it could hypothetically have. Have some tangible examples in your back pocket to illustrate the need for your product and the value of your company. For example, if your company helps customers make websites with interesting content personalization features, talk about a customer whose sales increased by X percent because users spent more time interacting with their website.
Pause When Needed
It sounds simple, but when nerves kick in, people tend to talk faster and without pausing. Make sure to breathe and stop momentarily throughout the interview to make sure the reporter you’re speaking with understands the information you’re providing. And be mindful if they are taking notes — they may need a moment to catch up after you answer a question. Offer to repeat yourself if they are typing a direct quote.
Engage in Conversation
Interviews should be a two-way conversation. Avoid talking at a reporter, or sticking to a robotic script. Sure, there may be one specific reason for the interview, but think of this as a chance to build a relationship. Perhaps your insight could help a reporter with another article he or she has in the works, or spark an idea for a story down the line. For example, a conversation about your company’s most recent funding round could inspire a reporter to write a larger trend piece about investment and innovation in your industry.
One talking point in ten seconds is better than ten talking points in thirty seconds. It’s helpful to think in sound bites—and to avoid “ums,” “uhs” and “likes” as much as possible.
Flag and Summarize Key Points
Use key phrases to flag important points (i.e. “the important part here is…” or “what this means is…”) and summarize the main topics you discussed at the end of the call. It’s easy to get caught in the weeds describing technical specs of your product, or a very detailed story of how your company came to be. Let’s use the example again of a company who helps customers personalize content on their website. The algorithms and technical processes behind this personalization is interesting, but “the important part here is…today’s digital natives expect content to be personalized, and companies need a solution like ours to keep up.”
There is no “off the record” and there are no take backs. If a reporter asks a question you aren’t able to answer, be honest. It’s much better to say “I’m not able to answer that question for you” now, than try to redact a comment later. Once a story appears, it’s out there for the world to see. Few reporters will be willing to delete a statement or fact that was meant to be private, unless it’s factually inaccurate.
Appearing on TV is very different from in-person or phone interviews. Don’t forget these broadcast-specific interview tips:
Know Your Camera Angles
You’re talking to a person during the interview, so look at them, not at the camera. It’s also helpful to check in with the producer on set prior to recording to get more information on where to look and what to do on screen. Producers live and die by marks on set, and they will appreciate your ability to stay within a perfectly framed shot.
Be Mindful of Body Language
Keep your body relaxed. Avoid tense gestures or nervous movements like crossing your arms, touching your face and readjusting your clothes. These simple habits are amplified on camera, and will distract the viewer from the important information you’re trying to convey.
Pay Attention to Wardrobe
Avoid prominent brand logos, tight or bold patterns and anything neon, and try to stick with neutral colors like blue, gray and brown. It’s also smart to avoid shiny jewelry and metal tie clips, which can reflect light back at the camera. It’s another potential distraction to viewers, and the producers won’t be pleased!
Image c/o hoodline.com