Here are some tips so you can be prepared when the media calls:
1. Anticipate questions.
Develop a list of all potential questions you think a reporter would ask you and then write down your responses, ideally in simple bullet points so that your answers are concise. Reporters do not want rambling answers.
2. Know what messages you want to convey.
Though you might end up answering questions for 15 minutes, it’s likely that only a few quotes will end up in the story. Every comment counts so make sure each answer has impact.
3. For radio and TV, there’s little or no editing.
Everything you say is recorded for all eternity. All the more reason to know your key messages, practice them, say them out loud in the car, have your kids interview you at the dinner table—whatever it takes to always be ready. Company CEOs and political candidates practice and prepare their messages and so should you!
4. Talk in sound bites.
The media likes short answers that are to the point, especially on radio and TV. Questions come in rapid-fire fashion and your answers should keep up with the pace. Your answers may end up becoming part of a promotional clip so responses should be confident and clear.
5. Monitor your pace.
When we are nervous we tend to talk faster. Pay attention to your pace, slow down and remember to breathe!
6. Remember to smile.
You don’t want to look miserable or tense on camera, and if you’re on the radio, a smile will radiate through your voice.
7. Dress for the part.
If you’re on TV, it is best to wear solid, bright colors. Prints and patterns don’t translate well on TV. Whenever interviewing in person, whether with a reporter for the local paper or a major news channel, it’s always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. And for women, makeup should be applied heavier than usual.
8. Be available for at least a week after sending out a press release.
Don’t go on vacation or disappear for several days after sending out a press pitch. If a reporter calls and leaves a message, call back as soon as humanly possible. There are always deadlines involved. (Unfortunately, I learned this one the hard way.)
9. Have fun with interviews.
You want to be prepared, but without sounding like a robot. Let your personality shine through and make the reporter’s job easy. When you’re a good interview subject, it is quite likely you will be contacted by that reporter again in the future.
10. Thank the reporter after the interview.
Reporters, editors and producers do not get enough appreciation for what they do and when you take time to send a quick note, it will be noticed and remembered. Reporters need a lot of sources and they are people too. Show that you are a great source and you can build a relationship that endures.
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