Preparing for media interviews: ten starting points

This advice post on preparing for media interviews was inspired by the closing remarks of Harry, the ‘difficult client’ in this clip from Absolute Power, a BBC comedy series about a public relations firm starring Stephen Fry. I’ve posted the entire clip but the salient comments are towards the end. Most people, I’d hope, would be starting from a stronger position than Harry and with a few pointers should be able to give a good media interview. There are lots of variables to consider in each individual case but, for starters, here are ten general points that should serve anyone well. I’ll provide a few more soon.

  1. Be prepared and be helpful: anticipate the likely questions in advance and how you will answer them concisely
  2. Gather supporting material such as useful, credible facts and figures on the subject in question
  3. If time permits, read the publication/watch the programme and find out what the journalist has written in the past on the same subject. A useful site for this is www.journalisted.com
  4. Be very clear who the end audience is. Make sure you speak through the interviewer to them, and in terms they will understand
  5. Think of no more than three points you want to get across and stick to them. If a natural way to bring these into the conversation doesn’t happen, then create one: “Of course that’s interesting, but the really important thing is…….”
  6. A useful aide-memoire is the four C’s: be credible, clear, concise and confident.  Think before you speak, speak in short sentences and with authority. Avoid jargon
  7. Don’t get bogged down in detail, give the main points then offer to expand if the journalist appears interested
  8. Try to deploy a memorable ‘soundbite’. For example: Politician Ken Clarke on the BBC talking about prison policy said the opposition party (Blunkett & Reid) had a “cheque book in one hand and a copy of The Daily Mail in the other”
  9. Tone down the selling: journalists do not write advertisements for your company
  10. Be interesting and memorable: what stories, anecdotes or case studies can you offer that liven up the conversation?

Do you agree? What would you add? Let me know using the comments box below.

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