The top things people are worried about before their media interview (and how to address them)

The top things people are worried about before their media interview (and how to address them)

Media interviews can be stressful. After all, there’s a lot on the line. And while no two people are exactly the same, as someone who helps coach people to do better media interviews for a living, I can tell you that there are some very common sources of interview anxiety. Here are the most common reasons people are stressed out about their media interviews (and some tips for minimizing that stress so that your interview goes well) and you can get that great coverage you’re hoping for:

Worry #1: They could ask me anything.

This is the biggest source of anxiety prior to an interview. Your mind starts racing with all the things they ‘might’ ask you and you spiral down a rabbit hole of terrible hypothetical topics. In reality, a media interview is a negotiated interaction. If it’s a proactive story you’re pitching, you know what the topic is. If it’s a reactive story where they’re calling you, the reporter should give you a clear overview of the focus of their story. Once you know the focus, it’s your job to craft some high-quality remarks that cater to that focus and tell an actual story that the reporter’s audience would find interesting. Could they go off script and ask you something totally out of the blue?

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The two worst characteristics for anyone doing a media interview

Being smart and being nice. Sound strange? Those are actually two of the worst characteristics to bring into your media interview. Now, I’m not saying don’t be smart and don’t be nice. But in this video, I talk a little bit about how these two conversational habits can hurt the effectiveness of your media interviews.

When is your media interview over?

When is your media interview over. That’s easy. It’s when they stop asking questions, right? Not so fast! There are a lot of things you can do or say after the last question that can derail your media relations plans. It’s never over until it’s really over. Here are a few things to consider on that note.

Why are people not doing practice interviews before speaking to the media?

One of the sad truths I’ve come to realize doing media training sessions in Canada and other countries is that the typical smart, career-minded professional will put WAY more work and preparation into a short, in-house presentation than they will for a media interview. I have my theories about why that is - namely, that they’re seeing it more as a conversation with the reporter than what it really is - an on-the-record interview that will be archived online forever.

I have this saying when it comes to media interviews, that ‘the first is the worst’. By definition, the first time you do it should logically be the worst. Most people do that first interview with a reporter though and they leave a lot of upside on the table. But what if you tried doing the first version of an interview with your in-house media relations person or with someone like me? Then you got some real, pull no punches feedback and tried it again. The second version of that interview will be significantly better than the first. Then, you do it with the reporter. The result is better media coverage.

Should we ask a journalist for a correction?

You did an interview with a journalist but you or someone at your company didn't like one of the quotes in the story or didn't like the way your company was characterized. Should you go back and ask for a correction? Here's my take on that question.

Want the media to pay attention to you? Think more like a journalist!

"Is there any way to make your association's good news story more appealing to journalists?" Someone asked me this question after my talk on media relations at the CSAE National Conference in Newfoundland. Here's my take on getting reporters to pay attention to your media pitches... FYI, I reference my sister a few times in this clip. Just for context, so you know who I'm referring to, my sister is Carly Weeks, a health reporter at The Globe and Mail.

Great key messages aren't enough

In less than 30 seconds, here are the two things that every great spokesperson brings to every single media interview! 

Great key messages (by themselves) are not enough. You need to have the skills to excel at the 'chess match' of the interview as well. You need to have both of these things firing on all cylinders.

The wrong thing to think just before your media interview begins

"I hope this goes well..." That's the last thing most people say to themselves just before they're interviewed by a journalist. It might be a nice sentiment, but from a media relations standpoint, it's a losing proposition. A great spokesperson will be much more intentional and proactive about what they want their quotes/coverage to look like.

Your key messages are too long!

One of the quickest things you can do to improve the quality of your media coverage is to focus on creating shorter, more powerful messages that tell your story in a way that will be interesting to journalists and your audience. 

When your messages are too long, journalists are forced to edit your answers, which increases the chances that a partial answer may be taken out of context.

So...how long should your messages be? This is my take on that question.