Make sure you don’t trip up on your big media interview by following these five tips to stay on topic during your media interview. Whether you’re doing an in-person or phone interview, you can avoid confusing or embarrassing yourself—and losing the opportunity to generate media coverage—by following these simple guidelines. Keep these points in mind before, during, and after your interview to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.
1) Be Prepared
Make sure you know your points, what you want to get across, and how best to communicate it. With practice, your answers will flow naturally—and more importantly, effectively. As Steve Jobs famously said: Stay hungry. Stay foolish. The media interview is not the time for ums or ahs. Prepare yourself mentally and make sure your facts are straight. Rephrase questions if you need to in order to get all of your main points out before time's up. And remember that everyone has an angle – ask yourself, what am I trying to accomplish with this interview? Your answer can keep you on point.
2) Know Your Subject Matter Well
We all know you should be able to describe your product, expertise or service, but that’s not enough. You need to know what other experts are saying about your industry and how they might differ from your point of view. Experts who are interviewed for media outlets always sound like they know what they’re talking about—and it’s not just because they practiced their answers in front of a mirror. They likely read up on similar stories and studied related statistics before going into an interview with a journalist. Knowing more than everyone else will make you feel more confident when responding, and that confidence will reflect in both your body language and tone of voice, as well as in how effectively you stick to your message throughout an interview. In short: Confidence is contagious!
3) Don't Speak Too Fast
It’s common for people to get nervous and excited during media interviews and end up speaking very quickly. The reality is that most people can’t concentrate for more than 60 seconds—which means that if you speak too fast, you risk losing your audience right away. You want your message to be clear and consistent, so use simple words and take small pauses before moving onto new ideas. Pausing also gives you time to think about what you’re going to say next, which will make your response much more informed and interesting.
Experts agree that listening is one of the most important parts of any media interview. If you don’t know what to say, ask questions. Not only will you appear more knowledgeable and confident, but you’ll also take away information that can be used in future articles or interviews. To get even more benefit from your time with media contacts, make sure you know what they want before showing up for an interview. Simply send them an email outlining your thoughts and asking any follow-up questions they might have; after all, they likely asked for an interview because they were hoping for information like yours.
Practice makes perfect! The best way to stay on topic during an interview is to practice, practice, practice. Before your interview, make sure you know what you want to say about your company or expertise. Make sure that message is clear and easy for listeners or readers to digest. This way, during an interview, if someone asks you something unrelated (but probably very interesting), you can always ask them: Great question; how do I answer that without getting off topic? Then give them your talking points and stay focused! Practice makes perfect—practice with people who will challenge you so you know how to deal with any curve balls thrown at you during a live interview. For example, practice speaking in front of people who have no idea what your company does or why it's important.
Here is to growing your name and brand for years to come.