Benefits of Media Training and Interview Tips
With preparation and practice, anyone can be confident in an interview setting. Media training helps spokespeople become comfortable and effective in front of the camera or microphone. Though you may know your issue or topic, media training builds confidence and helps the spokesperson communicate the message in a concise and meaningful way.
Media training allows a spokesperson to master messaging and delivery to best present an issue and organization for television, print and radio interviews. Understanding that what works in print interviews is often quite different than what works in broadcast media, and media training focuses on the medium.
Here are some general interview techniques for all mediums:
- Make sure that your points are relevant to the reporter’s question.
- Be realistic in your answers. Look at each question from the public’s point of view.
- Be positive in your answers.
- Place your most important points at the beginning of each response where they will be clear and isolated.
- Short answers are better than long ones and give the interviewer less opportunity to misunderstand you.
- If a reporter tries to interrupt you before you have finished your response, pause, let him finish, and then continue your answer.
- On the other hand, if the reporter interrupts you, there may be a reason. Don’t run off with the interview: allow for plenty of give and take between yourself and the reporter.
- If a reporter asks several questions at once or poses several premises in asking a question, don’t let this get by. You might reply, “Well, you’ve really raised several questions there. Let me respond to your main point first, etc.” Unload the preface (“Given the bad image your industry has…”)
- Do not use industry terms or jargon that dehumanize your topic.
- Don’t let a reporter put words in your mouth. Occasionally, an interviewer will rephrase your response to a question and test it on you. It’s a good policy to answer all questions that start, “Do you mean to say. . .” with a clear concise statement of what you do mean to say.
- Don’t feel obliged to accept the reporter’s facts or figures. Start your response with something like, “I’m not familiar with your figures, but I’d like to respond to the main thrust of your question,” if the statistics are new to you. If you know the correct figures and the reporter is wrong, straighten it out. If the reporter is right and you know it, don’t feign ignorance.
- If a reporter wants information you can’t release because of clear industry policy, don’t evade. State matter-of-factly and without resentment that you can’t release it; if you are able to do so subsequently, you will. If the reporter presses, repeat yourself in a calm, polite manner. If you can explain why the information is withheld, without getting into the specifics you want to avoid, do so.
- If a reporter asks a question “off the record,” remember that anything you say can be used—and most likely will be. Say nothing off the record or outside the actual interview that you would not want published with direct attribution to you.
- Avoid phrases like, “That isn’t my area of responsibility.” If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. But always offer to find out or to put the interviewer in touch with someone who does know.
- Never assign blame for any situation unless there is clear industry policy on the matter. If a reporter wants to know why something has gone wrong, give the reporter information on the complexities of the situation as much as possible.
- Never answer a question that you don’t understand. Ask the reporter to restate it. And, if you don’t know an answer, say so. Don’t bluff.
- Remember that the reporter will take what you reveal in each of your answers and use it to formulate the next question. So don’t reveal more than you want to. Answer questions simply.
- It should be obvious: Never—absolutely never—lie to a reporter. You don’t have to expound; just be sure what you say is absolutely true.
- Be yourself. You are appearing not as an actor or actress, but rather as an interesting person in your own right.
- Do not go into a briefing with such a fixed agenda that you can’t respond to the reporter’s needs. If he or she is working on an industry wrap up or trend story, relate what you are saying to that angle. Show how your story fits into the broader picture. It is important to keep in mind that many articles focus on an industry rather than specifically on your statement. In these cases, the payoff may be in establishing you or your industry as a source, rather than your inclusion in a particular story. This is why it is not always a good idea to ask, “When will this story run?”