As a print journalist turned PR pro I have been both the questioner and the questioned more times than I can count. Since I have worked both ends of the street, I have developed and refined these Top 10 print or web interview tips and over the years. These tried and true tips will help prepare you for an interview by any print or web reporter.
- Develop a “Touchstone” — One of the primary reasons to be interviewed is to get a message out. For example, if you are interviewed about a new medical procedure, an option is to discuss organization’s commitment to quality, “at Hospital X, bringing new and innovative procedures is how we improve care…” If you are promoting a book or product, refer to it in your answers, “as I write in chapter three…”.
- Avoid email interviews (whenever possible) – To build a relationship with a reporter there needs to be dialogue, either face-to-face or on the phone.
- Explore the parameters – Ask what the scope of the interview will be and what background information the reporter has or you can provide prior to the interview.
- Prepare – Research the topic that is going to be discussed. This will help you feel more confident and the reporter will appreciate your expertise.
- But don’t over prepare – Unless the story is for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, you only have to describe your watch – not explain in painful detail how it is made. Write down no more than three key points in bullet point form. Working from bullet points will help you get key information across in short sound bites.
- Be yourself – Focus on having a conversation with your interviewer. Keep in mind you are being interviewed because you are the expert.
- Pause – After a question, pause before answering to give you a moment to formulate your response.
- Slow down – Print/web reporters are either scribbling or typing notes so remember to slow down the pace of your comments. They will definitely appreciate you.
- Avoid jargon – Keep your conversation to a 6th grade level.
- Be accurate! — Make sure whatever information you provide in an interview is absolutely accurate. If you don’t know an answer it’s no big deal simply let the reporter/producer know when you will provide the information after the interview and follow through.
Afterward, if you feel the interview went well, send an email or written note of thanks and to provide additional information if it is needed. Once the story is published, if you feel it is appropriate, send a note of thanks. Being a reporter is often a thankless job so kind words are always appreciated and means you have a better opportunity to be quoted again.
Gregory Douglas is former newspaper reporter and current marketing and PR executive.