Five tips for doing a successful media interview

26 July 2022  |  Insights
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Media interview tips

Media interviews are a golden opportunity for your organisation’s spokespeople to communicate the work you are doing to a captivated and targeted audience.

It’s important you don’t leave this public platform open to chance. Instead, aim to communicate your voice well. Over time, media interviews will lead to a greater local, regional, national or even international influence for your spokespeople and the brand they represent.

Delivering a successful media interview is a skill that can be practised and prepared for, while still recognising the importance of being natural and authentic.

Using some recent examples, here are five tips to help you prepare your spokespeople to communicate with confidence, clarity and consistency.

Tell the truth

The essential base ingredient of any good media interview is truth. This must always come first.

Journalists are looking for veracity and authenticity from an interviewee.

Noises from a live audience can serve as an immediate barometer for perceived honesty, clarity and consistency in a live media setting, but this is not the case for more commonly pre-recorded and then edited interviews. In both scenarios, your spokesperson will need to research the audience and news programme beforehand.

"I know that I need honesty from the people I interview. I also know that the truth is more interesting than made up stuff, and also, people don’t connect with you if you are not honest."

Neil Strauss, American author and journalist

Whether live or not, a journalist will always fact check for accuracy of information. They will research evidence to provide targeted questions which could show up an interviewee.

An ITV interview with one MP, over why a deputy chief whip was allowed to take position despite allegations of sexual misconduct, demonstrates the scrutiny faced if not perceived as truthful by the media.

Keep it simple

Building audience trust through communicating with simple and powerful words is a great way to start to build reputation in the public eye.

Studies show that people don’t actually remember that much of what they hear, and the more complex an interview is, the less it is likely to stick in their minds.

James McGaugh from the University of California told New Scientist magazine: ”Tomorrow you’ll remember reasonably well a conversation you had today…within a week, a lot of that information will have been lost.”

In the same way that people only get behind a cause they remember well, the aim with media interviewing is to keep it simple.

In an interview on Bloomberg, BP’s CEO, Bernard Looney talks with ease about a complicated issue around rising energy prices and the impact of windfall tax. Mr. Looney does well to make the role of a large oil company easing the effects sound simple by directing and then dividing his answer into two simple points.

Stick to key messages

Engaging people with what your organisation does encourages them to support and advocate for the cause. Developing distinctive, easy-to-understand core messaging will serve that exact purpose.

Are you clear on what your core messages are and can you explain them to a new audience in a simple, effective and credible way? If you don’t feel confident in this area, Jersey Road PR can help you.

Make sure you are an expert on your key messages, particularly if you know you are likely to be interrogated on them. When LBC reporter Nick Ferrari interviewed former Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, on affordable housing, she at first appeared to know her main key message, but came unstuck when it came to questions about the details.

Be clear

In Channel 4's recent Parliamentary leaders' debate, host Krishnan Guru-Murthy asked a direct question: "One question, yes or no: is Boris Johnson honest?"

It wasn't a surprising question given the context of the debate. But while the majority of the candidates prevaricated, it was Tom Tugendhat's straightforward shake of the head that won the applause of the audience - and later, the pundits' praise.

One media tip is to make sure any public spokesperson is as clear as possible when answering demanding questions. The best way to do this is to consider and prepare clear answers to likely questions in advance. However, when you’re hit by a question you weren’t expecting, particularly when it is challenging, pacing your answers can help.

Flipping an interview question back to the journalist by repeating it, or taking a pause to breathe, can buy crucial seconds of thinking time. This enables spokespeople to deliver their considered response, at pace. But remember: answering the exact question directly is what is needed to show you are being clear and trustworthy with the audience.

Be prepared, but natural

It’s not always easy to be yourself when sitting under hot studio lights, and under pressure from the media. No one wants to appear wooden or robotic.

To stay as relaxed and natural as possible, don’t use a script, but do commit simple key messages to memory and refer to them. Being fully briefed on the purpose of the interview and the audience of the show will help any spokesperson feel better prepared.

The CEO of Iceland supermarkets, Richard Walker, recently responded in a natural, but prepared way to questions from a journalist about rising food prices. He shared evidence of the actions the supermarket is taking as solutions for their customers. Mr Walker’s concerned, but balanced tone came across in a well paced, natural rhythm. He used soundbites to underline his points.

Written by Theresa Stone, Training & Development Manager, Jersey Road PR

Do you want to know more about the techniques behind media interviewing?

Jersey Road PR’s practical, but personalised media interview training can help your spokespeople feel confident and prepared to deliver their best media interview.

Led by industry experts, Jersey Road PR’s team can create a mock TV or radio interview scenario for your spokespeople to experience and reflect on, as a team. Our training and bespoke interview scenarios can be conducted online or live. A camera operator and hostile questioning can also be added.

Get in touch

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