A reporter's job is to produce good stories. He or she is the conduit to the audience you wish to reach. A successful interview can help result in a story that is more favorable to you.
Be helpful to reporters. Help them define the story. Be open, frank and as engaging as you can be without revealing information you don't wish to reveal. Reporters are aware that you have boundaries but they will ask anything. And if you give them openings, they will keep on asking. Try to remain in control without appearing to be defensive, hostile or evasive.
1.Have the reporter define the story. If it is a print interview, set a time limit if possible. Do not leave the interview open-ended so that the reporter can continue to question away until you say something you don't want to say.
2.The reporter will come with his agenda. You need to have yours. Prepare for the interview. Outline the points you would like to make if that will help you.
3.Do whatever it takes to get yourself into a calm, purposeful state before an interview.
During the interview:
1.Present yourself as an expert.
2.Know your subject and your purpose. Focus on a few important points. Do not ramble.
3.Be honest and sincere. Do not exaggerate.
4.Be concise with your answers. Talk in sound bites or headlines: state your conclusions first. Then back them up with examples or details.
5.Never assume that anything you say is off the record. Try to avoid going off the record at all costs and if you do, make sure you and the reporter agree on what the term means.
6.Acknowledge good questions, rephrase bad ones. Remember that no matter how the reporter poses the question, you are in control of the answer. Make every statement a positive one.
7.Don't expect the reporter to ask the right questions. He or she does not have as much background as you do. Take the initiative and lead the interview. Use anecdotes and concrete examples whenever possible. Give a for instance that states a situation in human terms.
8.Don't get flustered or go on the defensive. Lean how to make transitions and turn questions around. For example, you may say "The real question is . . . "
9.Speak with energy and vocal variety. Avoid a monotonous delivery. You should sound enthusiastic and sincere.
10.Take your time before answering questions. Unless you are on live TV, all pauses will be edited out and only your answers used.
11.Between your answers, maintain a pleasant expression. Do not look guarded or defensive.
12.Do not repeat or nod your head affirmatively to a false premise or misleading question. Immediately correct the questioner politely and firmly.
13.Do not volunteer specific figures, facts or details that you don't want revealed. You are not obliged to respond to questions just because a reporter asks them.
14.If you are asked something you are not comfortable answering, tell the reporter you are uncertain, you will check it out and get back to him or her later. Do not say "no comment."
15.Avoid using jargon, acronyms or bureaucratic language. Also avoid using so many cautionary modifiers that what you're saying has been watered down to a meaningless statement.
PRINT INTERVIEWS: The Logistics
1.In print, what you say is more important than how you say it,
2.Remember the reporter's assignment is to find a story, an angle, a need, a hook, something to entice his audience. Try to help him find it if possible.
3.Journalists are after news. It's their job to probe. They can be hostile, provocative, snide, tenacious and sometimes misinformed. Don't take it personally. Try to remain objective and pleasant.
4.Journalists will not always stick to the information you give them. They may record such items as your tie color, the cut of your suit, even office details and conversations you may have before the interview. All of these may appear in an article as "color." Don't say or show them anything you don't want in the article.
5.It boosts your credibility to use statistics. But try to spread them out throughout the interview rather than overwhelming the reporter by providing them all at once. If you have them in writing, provide the reporter with a copy.
TV INTERVIEWS: The Logistics
1.Television is a visual medium. How you say things is as important as what you say. Remember that the viewer is most likely in a relaxed, home environment, so your goal is to talk and act in a relaxed manner.
2.Sitting straight and occasionally leaning in connotes enthusiasm. Slumping or slouching communicates boredom or lack of self-confidence. If you are standing, maintain a balanced "ready" position: feet planted comfortably, knees slightly bent, breathing with your diaphragm.
3.Your point of view and that of the interviewer may not be the same and they may be looking for controversy, but do not be defensive. Focus instead on getting your point across.
4.Maintain eye contact with your interviewer. Avoid "eye dart," which may be interpreted as a lack of confidence.
5.Smile when introduced and be cordial. Give the impression that you consider this a friendly exchange. A pleasant facial expression is a key element of effective self-presentation.
6.Avoid non-words like "uh," "um" and "ah." Any words or sounds that convey nervousness, anxiety, guilt or lack of substance are also to be avoided.
7.Television is a fast-moving medium. Comments must stand alone in 20 to 30 second sound bites. If you go with a longer statement, you run the risk of being edited, and misquoted.
8.It is wise to become familiar with body language. If physical or vocal idiosyncrasies inhibit your presentation, work to eliminate them. If they enhance your presentation, capitalize on them.
9.On TV, an overload of data, figures, names, dates and percentages only confuses the viewer. Television is an immediate medium. Use colorful language, impactful information, anecdotes and examples to get your point across.
10.As in any interview, avoid using jargon. If you must use special or technical terms, keep them simple or explain them using analogies your audiences will understand.
11.Depending on the time allotted and the agreement of the producers, consider using visuals, props, slides and videotape clips to reinforce your message. Remember, television is an audiovisual medium; the more you use sound and sight, the better you will reach your audience.
RADIO INTERVIEWS: The Logistics
Logistics of radio interviews are similar to television interviews with a few important distinctions:
1.If you're in a studio, be prepared to give the sound engineer a "reading" before the program. Speak in your normal tone because he is using that to set his volume controls.
2.It is more important than ever to have appropriate verbal illustrations and anecdotes. Remember, the radio listener has to paint his own mental pictures from your words.
3.Your dress is not a concern on radio. Whether you are in your office on your phone or in a studio with a microphone in front of you, your voice becomes the most important part of your presentation.
4.Radio studios are generally smaller than TV studios and more distracting. The technicians are in full view and visual cues are used.
5.In a studio, it is a good idea to practice good posture. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer if possible.
6.Speak clearly and distinctly. That is all the listener has to go on.
7.While you may have visual reminders with you, do not read from cards. It will sound like reading.
8.In a live interview, keep your ideas moving. On radio, "dead air" or silence is unacceptable.
9.Always speak with sincerity and enthusiasm.
10.Most of all, keep remembering that radio is an auditory medium. It is your voice, words and inflections that carry the listener.