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HOW TO HAVE A
GOOD MEDIA INTERVIEW
- Be known to the media as someone who can speak with some authority for a particular organisation or on a particular subject. Advise the media of this by putting details at the bottom of releases and making contact with organisations likely to be interested in your organisation or subject.
- Be contactable by the media by giving them full contact details - home, work and mobile telephone numbers and e-mail address.
- Be available by, as far as practicable, being willing to give an interview whenever contacted by the media. Broadcasters love someone who can be depended upon to give an interview at short notice.
- If it is a radio interview and it is not in the studio, try to use an ISDN telephone line - this will give you studio quality sound 'down the line'. If your organisation does not have such an ISDN line, ask them to consider renting one.
- If it is a television interview and it is not in the studio, try to choose a suitable location that will make you look serious and professional. In the case of an industrial relations dispute, you usually see the manager interviewed in a quiet office with books behind him, while the trade union official is often interviewed in a noisy street with vehicles racing behind.
- If it is a television interview, be sure to dress smartly and do not wear clothes with patterns or lines which will look odd on the screen.
- If it is a television interview, be sure to look the interviewer squarely in the eyes, both as the questions are put and as you give your answers.
- If it is a recorded interview and you make a mistake or slip up over a sentence, don't be afraid to offer a fresh answer. Just stop and say: "Sorry about that. Can we do that question again?" It's easy for them to edit out the problem.
- Before the interview, ask the interviewer what questions are likely to be asked. If you think that the questions are 'off beam', politely suggest the point that you think should be the subject of a question.
- If the subject of the interview is breaking news, ask to see any relevant news releases or Press Association print-outs, so that you can bring yourself completely up-to-date before speaking.
- If you know it (ask) and if appropriate, start by using the name of the interviewer and a greeting: "Good morning, John". If you are on a phone-in programme, use the name of the questioner in starting your answer. This will make you sound friendly and comfortable.
- Have two or three key points in your mind that you want to make in the interview. Then make sure that you include these points in your answers, whatever the questions. This may require you to answer the question put very briefly and then say something like: "But, of course, the real issue is …".
- Have two or three key statistics in your mind that you can use to substantiate your points. This will make you sound informed and authoritative. Beware, though, of using more than two or three; otherwise you will sound too officious.
- Keep your answers brief. Two or three sentences is ideal. We live in the age of the sound bite and, if your interview is a recorded one, don't be surprised if only one sentence from the interview is actually broadcast.
- Try crafting a sound bite. If the interview is a recorded one, the sound bite may be all that is needed. If it is live and longer, it's still a good idea to have a sound bite to offer up-front.
- Remember that a sound bite is very short and has a simple formula. If you're representing an organisation, it's a good technique to start the sound bite with the organisation's name. The first sentence should offer some relevant information and/or set out a point of view and the second sentence should be a specific call for action. For example: "Postwatch has done a survey that has found that a third of all post offices do not have the necessary promotional material for the new pricing system. We call on the Post Office to ensure that every local office has everything in place before the new system comes into effect in two weeks time."
- Never signal that you intend to give a multiple-point answer, as for instance: "I want to make three points". The chances are that the interviewer will intervene after your second (or even your first) point and then you look out of control. Instead make your points in response to two or three separate questions.
- Keep your answers simple. Never use acronyms or jargon. Radio and television are mass media and you cannot assume knowledge by the listeners or viewers.
- Try to have a bit of 'colour' in your answers. For instance, "The management is trying to put a gun to our heads".
- Try to sound forceful (but not strident). People want to feel that you care about what you are saying and are passionate about your subject.
- Never, ever loose your cool or composure, however strong the provocation. It is unprofessional. Moreover listeners or viewers are much more like to side with the interviewer than with you - they know him or her, but you are unknown to them. Instead deflect tough questions with a phrase like: "That's rather unfair because …" If you want to get tough, use a little sarcasm: "Well, that's a nice, friendly question …".
- Try to finish on a strong note. The interviewer may signal the end of the interview by saying: "Finally, I'd like to ask you ..". Or, if it is a live interview and you know how long it is scheduled to last, you can make a good guess as to when the last question is being asked.
- Try to finish your last sentence with a strong word. For instance: "We will pursue our objectives with all the resources at our command" or "All we seek is justice".
- If it is a live interview, when the interview is over, be sure that you can leave the scene without your exit being seen on screen or making a noise in the studio and, if you are wired up with a microphone, take it off before you leave your interview position.
- As you leave the interview, thank the programme producer or researcher for the opportunity and assure him or her that you are always available for such interviews.
- When it's all over, quickly rerun the interview in your mind or, if you can, listen to it or watch it. If there was a question you think you could have answered better or to which you did not know the answer, work out how you will handle such a question in any future interview. That way, you will get better and better.
- If all this seems a lot to take on board, bear in mind that people are unlikely to remember what you said, but are more likely to remember how you sounded - so, be confident, enthusiastic and friendly. The rest is icing on the cake.
- Good luck!!!
Note: I once did a total of nine media interviews in a day [for more information click here]
Last modified on 1 September 2006
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