The following guidance may help. General rules of the road
· An interview is an opportunity, not a threat.
· Prepare yourself thoroughly
· Identify your three key messages and concentrate on getting them across in your interview.
· Keep your answers precise, factual and brief, without being monosyllabic. It is the interviewer’s job to keep the interview going, not yours.
· Don’t use jargon and be simple. Pitch your story at the ‘general public’.
· If you don’t know an answer, say so. If you can’t answer, say so and briefly explain why (eg. client affairs).
· Never lie, guess or speculate.
· Don’t provide forecasts, particularly of a financial nature.
· Whatever the provocation, never allow yourself to become emotional. A raised voice is a lost argument so, if necessary, let the interviewer look foolish, not you.
· Don’t answer hypothetical questions. They are dangerous, especially when ‘edited’.
· Avoid comment on politics or socially sensitive issues.
· Don’t speak for other organisations. You are representing your organization only and any view you offer will be taken as the word or policy of your company.
· Beware ‘last’ questions. Some journalists will thank you for the interview and pack up to leave. By changing the formal atmosphere, they hope to catch you
Preparing fully for any 'Media Interview' is indispensable – the sine qua non of an effective performance.
Even if the interview covers ground on which you are an ‘expert’, you should still take time to consider how to engage with the journalist (or programme) you are due to speak to.
Your press contact should support this process, giving you background and briefing you on how to approach the interview.
In normal circumstances, you should have sufficient time to cover the following checklist:
1. What story is the journalist seeking?
2. What angle are they likely to take?
3. What is the attitude of the journalist or news organisation on the subject in question?
4. What are your key messages?
5. If it’s radio/TV, will you be live or taped?
6. Will you be interviewed alone, or will others take part?
7. Can you extract some of the questions from the journalist or producer in advance?
8. What is the very worst question you could be asked? Can you answer it?
To ensure a good interview, it is essential to establish two things:
· your key messages, and
· how you will answer the obvious (and the not so obvious) questions.
If you don’t feel confident about either, do not do the interview. Feel free to ‘rehearse’ the interview with a colleague.
There is a journalistic technique known as ‘doorstepping’ in which the journalist tries to get you to do the interview on the spot. Some reporters do it to lure you off guard, hoping you will be indiscreet or contradict either yourself or someone else. Others do it because they are dis-organised. Don’t be tempted to launch into an interview ill prepared. You will quickly find yourself out of your depth or making up answers without appropriate consideration.