10 Tips for an Effective Media Interview by George Patriot Seymore

By at August 11, 2011 | 7:52 pm | Print

10 Tips for an Effective Media Interview by George Patriot Seymore

 A reporter calls for an interview. Suddenly, you are panic stricken. What does she want? Ask her what the story is about and when her deadline is. To give you time to prepare, tell her you will call back at a specified time.

1.       Carefully plan It is natural to feel apprehensive about dealing with the media. But this fear will fade if you carefully plan for the upcoming interview. Think of it as an opportunity to promote your candidacy to the public in a positive light.

2.       Do your homework Make sure you know what you will talk about before the interview. The first step is to understand your message in the context of the story. Get background information and consider questions the reporter could ask. Examine other interviews the reporter has published in the past so you can anticipate the angle she may take.

3.       Know your messages A communications strategy is now taking shape. Develop clear and concise messages about your role in the context of the subject of the interview. These messages should address the concerns of your voters. Be able to rhyme the key messages off in your sleep. If it’s relevant to the story, prepare charts or graphs to provide a picture. Use examples to illustrate your story: a lively story could make the difference between being a last page filler or front page news.

4.       Prepare for the tough questions Think of all the hard and negative questions the interviewer could ask. Prepare your answers in advance and stay calm when answering. Avoid jargon that can confuse people who don’t know who you are.

5.       Be clear and concise Make positive statements; avoid defensive or jargony comments; talk in sound bites, keep answers short; practice bridging to ensure your key messages are communicated.

6.       Rehearse your delivery Practice what you want to say aloud. Often written words don’t translate well into a spoken interview. Role-playing is a helpful strategy when preparing. This will strengthen your answers and make the actual interview less intimidating.

7.       Make friends While it is important to be on guard when the interviewer walks through the door, it is also crucial to establish a good rapport. This relationship should be established right from the first phone call.

8.       Stay focused During the interview, the most important thing to remember is to remain focused on the subject at hand. The reporter knows she has a better chance of extracting hidden information if the interviewee is not focused.

9.       Don’t over-answer When you’ve answered the question, stop talking. If you talk too long, you leave yourself open to making a statement that may come back to haunt to you. Be brief and concise.

10.    Avoid hypothesizing If you don’t know an answer, don’t guess. Get back to them with the answer or provide them with an alternate source that can provide the answer.

Additional Tips

  • Remain friendly with the interviewer at all times. The phrase “no comment” sounds defensive. An alternative is, “We won’t have any comment until we get more details and have had a chance to study them.”
  • If the reporter attempts to steer away from the topic, let her know you want to stay on course. You do not have to answer any inappropriate questions.
  • Avoid “off the record” conversation. Do not say anything you do not want to see in print or on the six o’clock news. A reporter is still practicing ethical standards if she extracts from another source the same information that you provided in a previous “off the record” conversation.
  • If a reporter tries to get you to use her terminology, recognize her motives. If you repeat the reporter’s words, her quote becomes your quote.
  • Some reporters record their interviews. You might also want to record it for your own reference.

Remember: An interview with the media is a chance to promote your public image. With adequate preparation and a good communications strategy, the interview should go smoothly.

George Patriot Seymore, a nationally and internationally recognized Democratic political strategist & corporate public relations executive has built Patriot Strategies into one of the country’s fastest growing public relations consulting firms. Seymore has extensive political campaign experience at all levels of government. Throughout his career, Seymore has consulted over 100 campaigns on fundraising, campaign operations, and voter turnout. He also has managed and served as senior staff on legislative, congressional, gubernatorial and presidential campaigns. 

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