Over the last week, I've been interviewed by a number of media outlets about our simple, minimalist lifestyle. It's been a fantastic opportunity to reach more people and connect with a larger audience.
At my last job, I spent a lot of time working with the media and coordinating interviews for my supervisors. But I was never in the spotlight. So I have to admit, all the attention feels a little odd and overwhelming. It's also prompted intense self examination about my writing, lifestyle choices, and my communication skills. And I think that's a really good thing.
The experience has also brought up a number of questions and thoughts about messaging, authenticity, and privacy. Things like:
- If you talk to a lot of reporters during one week, does it dilute your message or strengthen it?
- How do you distill your life story into a sound byte? And is that really even possible?
Tips on talking with the media.
Whether you're a blogger or a small business owner, chances are you'll be interviewed by print or broadcast media sometime in your career. In essence, an interview is a presentation tailored to a topic and audience. It is also an excellent opportunity to tell your story and introduce your small business to a new audience.
Prior to giving interviews, it is a good idea to practice. For instance, you can videotape yourself and then critique your public speaking skills or you can practice by giving mock interviews and speaking extemporaneously. Once you start practicing, each interview will become easier and you'll be able to state key messages in a variety of situations.
Here are a few key points to remember when talking to reporters:
- Speak naturally.
- Avoid lengthy technical explanations.
- Know the reporters name, publication/program, interview format, and audience.
- Ask about the goal of the interview. Inquire about the type of information that will be gathered or shared.
- Prepare for a multitude of questions to be asked.
- Television is a visual media format and it is important to wear appropriate clothing.
Interview guidelines to consider.
Below are key guidelines to help you through the interview process.
1. Return a reporter’s call immediately and gather key information from the reporter. Ask the reporter about their deadline, what the story is about, and how you fit into the story.
2. Questions & tips to consider as you prepare for your interview. Ask yourself:
- What is my message?
- What specific examples can I cite to demonstrate this message?
- What kind of tough questions should I expect?
3. Stay on message. An interview is not a debate, it is an opportunity to share your story. Remember to bridge from the reporter's question to your own talking point. For instance, you can say: “Yes, that seems to be a key element of the problem, however what we are trying to highlight is...”.
4. After the interview. Send a thank you note to the reporter. And don't forget to offer to be an ongoing source of support for support for future stories.
5. And here are a few final tips.
- Be prepared for a reporter to call after the interview to double check quotes.
- Avoid jargon.
- There is no such thing as "off-the record."
- And most importantly, don’t guess, speculate or lie during an interview.
It's okay to say no.
I've also learned that it's not possible to say yes to everyone. I've received a lot of requests from reporters and TV producers who want to talk with me; it's a great feeling, but I also have to be realistic. I can't say yes to every media request, even though I would love the opportunity to connect with new people.