Giving an interview to the press may seem intimidating, especially if it’s your first. There are multiple ways an interview could be conducted depending on the nature of the news outlet (a television studio, telephone, Skype, email Q&A etc). If the reporter you are giving an interview to is writing an article for print or digital publication, interviews are most commonly conducted by phone.
As such, we have created this guide to provide you with the press interview tips and advice on how to talk to a reporter during a phone interview; however, these same tactics can apply to email, Skype or even a television interview. Delivering a powerful interview is one of the most important elements of a successful public relations strategy. Heed our press interview tips below to project confidently and articulately in front of the media.
KEEP THESE PRESS INTERVIEW TIPS IN MIND WHEN TALKING TO A REPORTER:
FIND A QUIET LOCATION WITH NO DISTRACTIONS
Although giving a press interview by phone gives you the luxury to handle the interview from anywhere, it’s important to use a location that allows the reporter to hear you clearly and for you to not be distracted by interruptions. Find a location, ideally indoors, that is quiet, has good cell reception and is unlikely to lead to you being interrupted or intruded on. This will allow you to think clearly and give a better interview (with a lower likelihood of being misquoted).
USE A HEADSET OR EARPHONES
Using a headset or earphones during a phone interview has multiple benefits. Having the ability to freely move around and walk while talking as well as having your hands free, often leads to speakers being able to think more clearly, project more confidently and feel like they are having a more natural conversation.
Keep a pen and pad handy during phone interviews to help keep track of the conversation. While being asked a question, you may think of a point that you want to remember to return to later in the conversation or you may want to keep track of key points for multi-part questions.
USE TALKING POINTS
Similarly to taking notes during an interview, you’ll also want to have notes prepared in advance with talking points to cover during the call. The key to a successful interview is making sure that you communicate the most important elements of your message and not getting sidetracked by questions or veering off on tangential responses. Despite all of the mental preparation you may do ahead of time, it’s normal to still feel some nerves and jitters during a press interview. When you’re nervous, it’s more difficult to recall important points you wanted to convey. So having those key points in front of you will ensure you communicate them and also allow you to feel a little calmer thanks to your advance preparation.
SPEAK SLOWLY, BREATHE
When you’re nervous, it’s easy for your speaking to speed up and for you to breathe less or more shallowly. This can make it difficult for a reporter to follow what you’re saying and it can make you come across as less confident. There’s a simple solution. Take a deep breath just before beginning to speak for each answer. This not only gives your voice more power, but forces you to slow down by a moment or two and be more articulate When giving longer answers, remember to continue speaking at a slower pace than might feel normal and take breaths as often as you feel you need to. You’ll think more clearly, deliver more confidently and enunciate with more resonance in your voice.
IT’S OK TO NOT ANSWER A QUESTION
There will be times when a reporter asks a question that you can’t or don’t want to answer. The key to handling this professionally is to politely communicate that the question is something you cannot speak to at this time. Reporters are accustomed to hearing this. If they persist, continue politely, but firmly, let them know you cannot provide an answer. There is no need to explain the reason why.
EVERYTHING IS ON THE RECORD
By the same token, for every question that you do choose to answer, remember that anything and everything you say during an interview is “on the record”. This simply means that you should never say anything before, during or after an interview with a member of the media that you would not want to see quoted in print or on television. There can occasionally be exceptions to this depending upon your personal relationship with a specific reporter, but as a general rule, it’s always best to operate under the premise that anything you say could end up in print.
Think of reporters as you would think of any customer in your business. You need to provide them with value in order to cultivate a relationship. Many businesses make the mistake of only providing reporters with self-serving talking points that seek to sell their product or service. This usually leads to an interview not being published and a potential relationship being squandered. Make sure that your talking points contain a healthy combination of both information about your company and also valuable insights and educational facts about the topic at hand. The more value you provide to the press, the more often they’ll come back to you for additional interviews.
FOLLOW-UP POST INTERVIEW
Finally, remember to send a follow-up email to the reporter after your interview. It’s a good idea to accompany this follow-up email with a head shot or relevant photo that could be published with the story (it doesn’t mean they’ll always use it, but you want to be proactive in any case). It’s also acceptable to ask the reporter for a possible time frame for when your story could be published. Let them know that you are available for any follow-up questions they may have or supporting information they may need to finish their story. Follow-up emails are important for continuing to build a long-term relationship based on providing value to the media.