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
Here are some tips:
Before the interview:
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
4. Be concise with your answers. Talk in sound bites or
headlines: state your conclusions first. Then back them up with examples or
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
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
10. Take your time before answering questions. Unless you
are on live TV, all pauses will be edited out and only your answers
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
1. In print, what you say is more important than how you
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
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
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
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
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
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
RADIO INTERVIEWS: The
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
4. Radio studios are generally smaller than TV studios
and more distracting. The technicians are in full view and visual cues are
5. In a studio, it is a good idea to practice good
posture. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer if
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
10. Most of all, keep remembering that radio is an
auditory medium. It is your voice, words and inflections that carry the