There are two types of interview: one in response to you contacting the press, for which you are probably prepared to some degree, the second is the type where you’re contacted unexpectedly by a member of the media. Whilst you can’t be prepared for the latter, don’t panic, you can buy time. Here are Barbara’s tips for being interviewed by the media.
Before the interview
- Find out all you can about the publication or programme they are working for
- Ask why they want to interview you
- Establish how much they know about the subject and what they want to find out
- Try to identify who else they might be interviewing on the subject
If the journalist has called you on the phone, promise to call right back and take a few minutes to prepare your ground. Don’t take too long about it, new stories come along and you may be forgotten. Remember that journalists generally work at great speed and under intense pressure; they have to find a colourful angle to attract their audience. If you can help them with this it can bode well for future contact.
If you know an interview is coming up, prepare notes on the subject you will be talking about, identifying issues and subjects that will appeal most to the audience. You might have several points to make but at the very most your audience will remember two or three. The less you say, the more they’ll remember. Imagine yourself hearing the message for the first time and ask yourself whether it will overcome the ‘so what?’ barrier. If it doesn’t, is there another way you can present it?
During the interview
Follow the 3Cs principle:
- Have confidence in your own knowledge
- You know your subject better than the journalist
- Use a clear, conversational style
- Establish a maximum of three key messages and illustrate your points with anecdotal examples for colour and credibility
- Avoid jargon
- Take charge of the interview. There are no such things as wrong questions, only wrong answers.
Use the ABCD technique:
A) Acknowledge and address the question (1 second), eg: yes, no, I don’t know, I’m not able to answer that.
B) Bridge (3 seconds), eg: but, however, what I can tell you is..., let’s be clear about this.
C) Control and clarity (30 seconds), eg: key messages from your interview brief.
D) Dangle, eg: what’s really interesting is...
- Give examples. A good example can be worth a thousand words. People love stories so identify a graphic example or anecdote to back up every assertion.
- Analogies are another good way to ‘ring a bell’ with the audience. Relate abstract terms to everyday things such as converting hectares into football pitches.
- People love to be in the know, so where possible let the audience into a secret: how to get the best out of something, for instance, or how to avoid disaster.
- Don’t worry too much about being asked a surprise question. There’s a finite number of questions that can be asked on your subject and you’re in a better position to know them than the journalist.
- Body language is telling. Sit with your bum in the back of the chair, lean forward and use your hands to communicate.
- Don't discuss, defend or debate: it makes you sound uncertain and defensive and lowers yourself and your organisation. The obvious exception is if you are part of a panel debate.