How to Win at Any Media Interview
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How to Win at Any Media Interview
by: Robert Deigh
Now, you need to follow a few easy steps before and during the interview to
make it a great public relations win: Are your story pitches to reporters
working? If you succeed in landing an interview, congratulations!
Before the Interview
- Never do an interview cold. Prepare yourself.
- Learn what you can about the publication, audience, interviewer and story.
Read the reporter's last couple of stories.
- Start with a goal. Visualize the “headline.” What would you like the story
- Review your 5-6 “must-say” message points that make your case.
- Practice answers to all potential questions. Have your staff grill you.
They will enjoy it. You probably won't, but it will make your answers more
During the Interview
- If it is a phone interview, remove distractions. Get into the proper
- Keep message points in front of you. Repeat your messages 2-3 times during
interview to make sure they get into the story.
- Speak through the reporter to your audience (see above).
- Learn to take yes for an answer. Skilled salespeople say that once you
make the sale, don’t keep selling! Same goes for interviews. Once you make
your point and you are sure the reporter gets it, shut up and move on. There
is a temptation to embellish your answer for a few more minutes because you
know so much about the topic at hand.
- Be engaging and friendly.
- Speak slowly. Remember, the reporter has to understand you well enough to
explain it to others.
- Don’t repeat a negative question; it will end up as part of your quotes in
the story. Stay positive.
- Don’t criticize your competitors by name – you’re giving them free PR. If
you hammer home what makes your product or service unique, your potential
customers will figure out the differences for themselves.
- Never lie. Just say you can’t discuss a particular topic.
- Don’t guess. “I don’t know. I’ll get back to you on it,” is a fine answer.
Say you will call back and then DO it.
- Make your points easily understood, e.g., Use clarifying statements to get
a reporter’s attention to make sure he/she pays attention when you give your
- “The three most critical issues are…”
- “There are three main
points to remember here….”
- “The most important aspect of this whole
- “The people who will be most affected by this are…”
- Let the reporter use a tape recorder for accuracy. You can use one
too for verification. Might come in handy if there is a dispute later on a
- In a confrontational interview, keep to the high road. Don’t be
defensive. Avoid emotion.
- Always stay in control of an interview. Even if the reporter is
rapid-firing questions at you, it is OK to think before you speak. They can’t
quote you on something you didn’t say. In this day of one-minute TV stories
that are considered in-depth, pausing to think before answering a difficult
question can be perceived as being stymied. Still, go for substance over
- Never say flatly, “No comment.” It makes it appear as though you are
hiding something negative. Always give a reason, even if it is non-committal,
e.g., “We can’t discuss anything in litigation,” “We don’t discuss personnel
matters,” “We don’t respond to rumors,” or “Once our new product is ready to
announce, we will do so.”
Robert Deigh is principal of RDC Communication/PR and the author of "How Come
No One Knows About Us?" (WBusiness Books, available May 2008), the PR guide for
organizations large and small that want to win big visibility. Deigh helps
organizations increase their visibility and build their brands by creating
strong and positive relationships with the press and other audiences. He is also
a well-known speaker and trainer on media and PR topics. Want more free info to
build your business? Subscribe to Deigh’s popular monthly 1-page online
newsletter “PR Quick Tips” from his website at
www.rdccommunication.com. He can
be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 703-503-9321.
Contributor: Robert Deigh
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