Although earning media coverage has change radically during the past decade, how to prepare for TV interviewer questions has remained almost unchanged.
These tips arise from 20 years of working for media companies and as a public relations pro. Follow these tips, and your 15 seconds of fame will be well worth the prep time:
1. Develop a “touchstone.” A primary reason to be interviewed is to get a message out. For example, if you are interviewed about a new medical procedure, an option is to discuss organization’s commitment to quality: “At Hospital X, bringing new and innovative procedures is how we improve care…” If you are promoting a book or product, refer to it in your answers: “As I write in chapter three…”
2. Avoid email interviews whenever possible. To build a relationship with a reporter there should be dialogue, either face to face or on the phone.
3. Listen first. When the reporter is not on a pressing deadline, ask what the scope of the interview will be, what background information the reporter has, and what you can provide prior to the interview.
4. Prepare. Research the topic to be discussed. This will help you feel more confident, and the reporter will appreciate your expertise.
5. But don’t over-prepare. Unless the story is for The New York Times Sunday Magazine, you only have to describe the watch, not explain how it is made. Write down a few key points; three would be ideal. Working off bullet points will help you get your information across in short sound bites.
6. Be yourself, and be confident. Focus on having a conversation with your interviewer. Keep in mind you are being interviewed because you are the expert.
7. Think first. After a question, pause before answering to give you a moment to formulate your response.
8. Slow down. Print reporters are either scribbling or typing notes, so don’t be afraid to speak slowly. They will definitely appreciate it—and your quote is far less likely to be mangled.
9. Avoid jargon. Keep your conversation to a sixth-grade level.
10. Be accurate. Make sure whatever information you provide in an interview is absolutely accurate. If you don’t know an answer, it’s no big deal; tell the reporter/producer you will get them the information after the interview. Be sure to follow up.