Tips for the interview – Part 1

I’d love to say there is nothing to fear when you are being interviewed by the media, but I’d be lying.

There is. You CAN blow it and mess up your message. You can even buy yourself a fresh issue – one you don’t want – by wandering off course.

Ever rambled on, only to find later on that your words got sliced into itty-bitty sound bites that passed over your most important points and worse, left you feeling like a bit of an ass?

It’s happened to both newbies and old pros alike.  You watch your interview on TV, and cringe. You realize you have little control over what gets used, and what gets left out.

Don`t feel too bad. It happens to everyone who faces down a microphone at some point in their career or business development.

There`s hope.

You do have some control, and if you follow these tips, you’ll maximize your chances of reaching your goals with the media.

Here they are:

Have a clear objective.  Sounds simple but you’d be surprised how many people do interviews without knowing exactly why.

What this really means is this: don’t give away your power just because someone from the local radio station or community online ezine has called and wants an answer right now.

Know what you want to see in print (or hear on TV, or radio, or see in a tweet or on FB).

Buy some time. Try this: hyperlink here

Don’t answer someone else’s question. You may be asked about something another organization or business is doing or saying.

Be very careful about these questions. They can be traps. Refer the reporter to the right person to make the comment, and btw, if it’s not you, stay away from it. You do not have to answer a question that is unfair or may well stir things up.

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Be ready for the worst. If you have had some advance warning of an interviewtake the time to think of the worst possible questions you’ll get asked.  Whatever you do, don`t go into it unprepared and just hope for the best. Nine times out of ten the question you were hoping to avoid is the one they`re going to ask you.

Be ready for it. Practice your answer until you’re almost sick of it.

Be honest. You don’t need to tell everything you know, but never lie, no matter how difficult the truth might be.

Never say “no comment.” If you can’t answer a particular question, say so, but explain why. “No comment” sends off alarms for a reporter and suggests you have something to hide, and it reads that way in print, too. Explain that you are unable to answer the question because it involves litigation, proprietary or personal information, or whatever the case may be.  Perhaps you just don’t have the answer yet. Say so, and then get back to them with the information. Do this in a friendly but firm manner.

Everything is “on the record.” Don’t ever assume or accept that a conversation is off the record, not for attribution, on background, or on deep background. Baloney. You have to assume that everything is on the record. 

If you don’t want it printed, don’t say it. While you have to be honest, you don’t have to volunteer things that are not helpful. Remember, reporters won’t edit out the “oops” bits if they think your fumble advances the story.

Play editor. The reporter will only be able to use a small portion of what you say. If your answers are long, the reporter will edit what you say to get the sound bite. If your answers are brief and to the point, then you are helping them to choose.

Don’t be afraid of saying, “I don’t know.”  At some point you’ll get asked a question that stumps you. Say so. It is much better than trying to make it up. In fact, if you aren’t 100 per cent sure of the answer, you should say so. Offer to get the answer, if it’s appropriate, and make sure somebody follows up. This is a good way to become a trusted source.

Be friendly. Don’t get into an argument. Most reporters aren’t out to get you, and even those with a hidden agenda will be easier to handle if you remain neutral. Even if you are positively throbbing with indignation, don’t show it. This is a good time to remember your breathing.

Don’t be shy. If a question has an underlying premise that is incorrect, challenge it. If the reporter makes a statement that you disagree with, say so. An unchallenged statement could be transformed into a quote with your name on it, and often is. hyperlink here to this

Silence is golden. Don’t try to fill moments of silence. In most cases, the reporter is simply keying in what you just said. But some reporters use silence as a technique (especially on the electronic side) and you’d be amazed at some of the things they learn when an interview subject struggles to fill the void.

When you’ve given your answer, stop and wait for the reporter to ask the next question.

Don’t speculate. Reporters love to play “what if.” Don’t go there. A simple answer is that you don’t like to speculate, and if the “whatever” happens, you’ll be happy to answer the question then.

Relax! Remember that you are the master of your subject matter. You know your business. Take comfort in that.  And if you are following these suggestions, then you have little to worry about.

If you think it’s time to chat, I invite you to contact me and set up a time (put this in a calendar here) or leave your details and I’ll get back to you.

Or, sign up for my webinar workshop, how to know what you don’t know about getting media coverage with the media xxx link here. teach these techniques and tips in my media relations workshop 101. I warn you – I`m different from media trainers you find on YouTube or through traditional PR firms. hyperlink here to why I’m the one to help you with the media.

I`m blessed with having years of experience first as a national reporter for the Globe and Mail Report on Business and Toronto Star newspapers, and years more after that as a public relations specialist  for a multinational chemical company. I managed all the media for the City of Peterborough, Ontario after a nearly catastrophic flood in 2004. And I handled media relations for the provincial property assessment body – in that job, the questions were always tough ones because everybody hates taxes.

But here`s my secret sauce: I also trained as a counsellor, and I bring some of what I learned to my training sessions. This means no canned formulas, or one-size-fits-all training for spokespeople or business owners.

When I train you, you’ll remember what you learn, because I tailor it to your personal style and comfort level. I don’t expect you to be anything other than your own true self.

If you want to know more, and get the benefit of all that wonderful experience I have to offer you, press this button to get on my mailing list for more tips. add button here


About Jane Carthew Davidson

As a former senior public relations specialist with a large publicly traded multi-national chemical company, Jane Carthew Davidson produced the company’s award winning annual report for several years. Later, she was media relations specialist for Ontario’s Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), where she wrote speeches for the executive team, trained spokespersons across the province, and developed talking points and strategies designed to clarify the role played by property assessment within the municipal taxation system. Jane is a former business reporter for the Globe and Mail Report on Business, and the Toronto Star’s Business Today. Her articles have appeared in the Toronto Star, the Medical Post, the Anglican Journal, the Financial Post and most recently, the Globe and Mail’s special supplements on subjects as wide ranging as organic farming and new investment regulations. On several occasions, Jane’s media savvy and quick research skills enabled her to win broad media attention and investment queries from Canada, the Unites States and Europe, for a unique medical device start-up venture. Following Peterborough’s Flood of the Century in 2004, Jane handled media relations for the City of Peterborough, developing and implementing the communications plan for the city’s media outreach to afflicted citizens, concerned insurance companies, city staff and other government stakeholders.
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