5 Ways to Nail Your Next News Interview
by Lilia Dashevsky
by Lilia Dashevsky
Communicating your organization’s message clearly, effectively, and succinctly has never been so important. Whether you’re a spokesperson going on a national talk show, or an expert speaking with a trade publication, there are basic steps that you can take to ensure you deliver the best possible interview.
Responsiveness is Everything
Newsrooms across the country are shrinking at an unprecedented pace. According to The Atlantic, “Between 2008 and 2017, American newspapers cut 45 percent of their newsrooms staff—and the following years, for many outlets, brought even deeper contractions. From 2004 to 2015, the United States lost more than 1,800 print outlets.” As a result, the importance of timing and the 24-hour news cycle has never been more critical. A dwindling number of journalists is now expected to juggle more stories— they’re going to rely on you to be responsive to their calls, texts, or emails. This helps you establish rapport, trust, and credibility with reporters and shows them you’re a reliable and accessible source who is respectful of their fast-approaching deadlines.
Do Your Research
Don’t rush into accepting every interview that comes your way. Take no more than 15 minutes to answer the following questions. 1) Is this reporter from a legitimate outlet? 2) Is the outlet relevant to you, your industry, or your stakeholders? 3) By participating in this interview, could you potentially face any kind of backlash? 4) What has the reporter written recently? Do they normally cover your industry? Can they be perceived as being biased or politically motivated? If the answers to all those questions are the right ones, then move forward with the interview.
Ask the Reporter Questions
If the opportunity aligns with your objectives, then your next response to the reporter should include a series of questions. For example: what is the crux of your story, what questions do you plan on asking, will this be live or pre-recorded, what’s your deadline, is this on the record, off the record, or on background, etc. Don’t think you’re inconveniencing the reporter—these are standard questions that they’re used to receiving. The answers to these questions can also make your preparation process much more strategic.
Practice Makes Perfect
Once you’ve confirmed the interview, take every moment you have to prepare. First, try to anticipate the questions the reporter might ask. From there, outline the main messaging points you need to get across for your cause, organization, or end goals. Align those talking points with the questions you anticipate and practice delivering short, concise responses. If you’re simply responding back with written answers, spend this time editing and refining.
Regardless of the format of your interview, master the art of a soundbite. Soundbites are no more than 10 seconds or approximately 30 words. The best way to deliver these punchy one-liners is by incorporating colorful, powerful, vivid language; offering an analogy or metaphor; telling a brief story, or starting with an example. Your goal is to evoke some sort of emotion in your audience.
Just as reporters have their own styles of writing, you, as an interviewee can have your own style as well. If your organization prepares talking points for you, then make sure that you make the language your own. A powerful delivery can reap benefits and establish your credibility as a reliable source for reporters. But, you can only do this if you take the time to prepare and leave nothing to chance.
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