Pitch and stick to your issue in a media interview
July 5, 2017
When you are the spokesperson for your organisation or company, media interviews can seem daunting. But remember that you are the prepared, well trained expert. Media have the right to ask questions (within reason) and are keen to get the best answers for their audiences.
Consider the audience and tailor accordingly; your message might be the same for the 7:30 Report and The Project, but your delivery, anecdotes, and body language should change. It's helpful to review the format, style and interviewer of the show you’re appearing on beforehand.
Tone and body language are very important. Conduct yourself professionally, take ALL interviews seriously and prepare, prepare, prepare. Practice the who, what, when, where, how and why of your topic to ensure you nail the basics. Be confident, clear and concise.
When it’s time for the interview, remember that the journalist is a person just like you. If you’re nervous, say so before you begin (off air of course)! Chances are they will try to put you at your ease. After all, a good interview benefits the reporter as much as you.
▶ Before you begin, scan the area for any visual (or aural) distractions. Are you standing next to a busy road, or in front of a banner with a logo that points into your head at a funny angle?
▶ Always keep in mind the five Cs to success: speak with conviction in a conversational manner while retaining your composure. Be confident (you are the expert) and colourful (use interesting, short anecdotes and examples to illustrate your point).
▶ Give a short opening statement to make sure that your key messages are delivered on camera. Even if you get 10 questions on a different topic, at least you have delivered the key messages.
▶ Avoid jargon, waffling and wordy answers. Be succinct and to the point. Don’t feel worried if you get a little nervous as this will keep you on your toes!
▶ Try not to get into an argument. Accept there may be a different viewpoint.
▶ Speak clearly and stick to your message.
▶ If you are getting sustained questioning on a difficult topic, don’t get flustered. Keep your cool, provide the response you want to give and then refer the journalist to that response when they continue to ask you the same question. If you lose your cool, snap or look agitated, that could very well be the one grab that gets up on the television news or in the papers. So make sure you keep your composure throughout the whole interview.
▶ If you know you only have limited time or have an engagement to get to, make sure you make that clear to the journalists before so that they are not surprised when you pull the pin on the media interview after a certain period of time. This is most easily done by saying you only have time for a couple of questions. Lay the ground rules clearly before you start.
▶ Don’t be rude or patronising if you are asked a silly question or a question that shows little understanding of the issue. Be polite to the journalist and answer to the best of your ability.
▶ Make sure you have your exit route planned. If you need to quit the interview at any stage, make sure you have a door to walk through or a car to get into – otherwise you’ll be filmed waiting around.