build a bridge and ace your media interview

I’ve heard many horror stories over the years from people who have been interviewed by the media, initially excited by the opportunity, but then surprised to see how their quotes are used or the information they provided is represented.  If a reporter calls you out of the blue to do a story – chances are, they already have a story idea in mind and are looking for quotes and additional facts to support their story.  If you do get such a call, ask if you can call the reporter back in 30 minutes… you’ll need time to prepare your key messages.  Before you hang up, be sure to get the answers to the following six questions.  They will help determine the context of interview.

  1. Which media outlet are you working for?
  2. What’s your deadline?
  3. What’s the angle for your story?
  4. Have you reported on this kind of story before?
  5. Who else are you interviewing for the story?
  6. What can I do to help you with this story?

With the answers to these questions, you will know what kind of story the reporter is working on and can anticipate what you’ll be asked.  Prepare what you are going to say, and just as equally important… be prepared on how you are going to deliver it.

When you call back, (and DO call back), don’t just wait for the reporter to ask his or her questions, but rather, turn it into a conversation.  Try leading off the interview with your key message – perhaps something like… “Before we get started, let me tell you about what we’re doing here at XYZ and why we’re so excited…”

When you feel the interview is taking a slight turn from where you anticipated or want it to go, build a bridge.  Bridges allow you to take charge of the interview and provide the perfect opportunity to take the media conversation back to your key messages and the story you want to share. When speaking to a reporter, use creative bridges that will help transition into your key messages such as:

  •  Another thing (readers/listeners) would be interested in knowing is10635283_thl
  • Building on that point…
  • At the end of the day, what this is all about is…
  • Now, having said that…
  • It’s also worth noting that…
  • What’s important to keep in mind here is…
  • Looking at the big picture…

If you’re asked a tough question, answer it to the best of your abilities and then transition to your key message. If you’re asked a question you can’t answer, explain why (“I don’t know, that’s confidential, I’m not going to speak on someone else’s behalf”) and then say “now, what I can tell you is…” and transition to back your key message. 

Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? I’m not saying media interviews are easy, but with practice and does become easier.  The media is not the enemy. Reporters are not to be feared with hidden agendas. They have a job to do and so do you. When you know upfront what to expect and can stay focused on delivering your key messages with the use of effective bridges and transitions, you will ace your interview and may be pleasantly surprised when you see / hear your name in print or on the air.

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