Last month, I devoted this space to the topic of preparing for a media interview. It’s important to go into an interview having done some legwork. You need to know about the reporter you’re dealing with, the outlet for which he or she works, the kind of coverage it has devoted to the topic, what questions you are likely to be asked, and how you want to answer them.
An interview, an opportunity
An encounter with the media is an opportunity to communicate what you want to say about a particular topic. Approach your preparation strategically.
What key messages do you want to deliver? As you tell my story, what do you want to communicate about this issue, your company and your operations?
Although you obviously will want to convey facts, details and perspective, you also want to use the opportunity to promote and protect your company’s brand and reputation.
Be aware that only a fraction of your interview will make it into the story. You may spend 30 minutes with a reporter and only one quote will see print or make it on the air. That’s the reality of news coverage.
So you want to make premium use of your interview time. An answer without a message is a missed opportunity.
As you consider the topic at hand, consider what are the two or three most important points you want to get across. There may be many, but it’s best to focus on a select few.
Then develop your answers around those key messages. If, for example, the topic is food safety and you want to communicate that it is a critical priority for your operations and an integral part of your company culture, make that the basis for your responses.
Develop a few ways of saying it and incorporate it into your answers. Keep in mind—if only one quote makes it into the story, what do you want it to be? Then make sure to say it.
Once you’ve put the effort into developing your messages and preparing a list of question and answers, remember to stay on message during the interview. Questions may be far-ranging, but keep your objectives in mind and use your answers to communicate your key points.
Roadmap for success
There are other tips to remember that will help you give a successful interview.
- Be yourself. Use your own words, be clear, and avoid jargon and “industry speak.” In agriculture, we use a lot of terms that make sense to us but not to the general public. Consider the publication’s readers or the station’s viewers and what they will understand. Although it may be tough, simplify complex topics and processes as much as you can.
- You don’t have to answer every question. If you don’t know the answer, it’s perfectly fine to say so. You may offer to research the information and get back to the reporter if that’s feasible, or refer her or him to another source. If you can’t answer a question, explain why. If it involves employees, your company wouldn’t want to discuss personnel issues publicly. If it involves proprietary company information, relay that. In addition, avoid speculating about what may or may not happen in a particular circumstance or what someone else may think or say.
- Keep your answers concise. The likelihood of being quoted increases significantly if your answers are memorable, convey good information and are relatively brief. A long, drawn-out answer doesn’t make a strong sound bite. Clear, compelling quotes are much more likely to be published or aired. And that means success for you.
Lisa Lochridge is the director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland. She can be reached at 321-214-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.