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How to conduct an interview with a journalist

Published on 28/10/15


The best piece of advice that can be given to anyone about to give an interview is to make certain you are fully prepared and that you know your subject inside out. Research and practice are the two key elements in ensuring you are fully prepared for an interview with a journalist.

If you do not feel confident or knowledgeable on the subject matter you seriously need to consider if you are the most appropriate person to conduct the interview.

However, if you feel you are indeed the right person to conduct the interview, then this could be a fantastic opportunity to promote yourself and your organisation. These opportunities do not come along every day so be careful not to turn them down too quickly.

Even if a journalist is looking to run a negative story, do not immediately discount the opportunity to be involved in the story. Even in a crisis situation a well handled interview can prove to be very effective PR helping you to preserve credibility. However, in these circumstances we strongly recommended you seek professional advice otherwise you could end up unwittingly providing the reporter with a very damaging story.

The potential value of a media interview

Remember being asked to be interviewed by the media is a great opportunity to talk about your company, product or service. Getting media coverage, especially positive media coverage, will ensure you can reach a very wide audience with your key messages. Make certain to use informal, everyday language, which all readers, listeners or viewers will understand. Try to avoid abbreviations and jargon.

Always provide details of your company or organisation and where people can obtain further information.

Key aspects to consider when taking part an interview

  • Remember, with the media a question equals an opportunity to say what you want. Reporters usually start with a lead in question that will allow you to put your point across
  • During the interview stick to the key points that you want to get across
  • Don’t be afraid of silence. Say what you want in answer to a question then stop. Silence is the interviewer’s problem, not yours
  • Don't know the answer? Don't fake it and never lie. Say you do not know the answer and move on to one of the points you want to make
  • Don't let false charges, facts or figures offered by a reporter stand uncorrected
  • Establish your brand. Use your organisation’s name wherever possible.

  • Face to face interviews

  • Be polite and always speak clearly
  • Remember although you are speaking with only one person, you are actually talking to an entire audience, so hundreds, even thousands, of people will be hearing or seeing your comments
  • Remember, there is rarely any such thing as an ‘off the record’ comment with a journalist, so only talk about what you are happy to see in the media coverage
  • Try to remember some key points you want to address during the interview and ensure you do
  • If the journalist attempts to ‘lead’ you away from your area of knowledge, just don’t make up an answer, say you do not know the answer and let the interviewer move on
  • Don’t be afraid to challenge false comments, facts or figures, this is your chance to set out the facts.

  • About telephone interviews

  • Never ever do a telephone interview on the spot. Buy preparation time by asking to call the reporter back
  • Ensure the room in which you carry out the interview from is free from background noise and interruptions
  • Use notes if you want, nobody can see you
  • Have a glass of water to hand.

  • Radio interviews

  • Make certain you know the name of the radio programme, the name of the interviewer, the time of the interview and whether your interview will be live or pre-recorded. This allows you to prepare and research accordingly
  • Establish before the interview whether it is going to be live or pre-recorded (taped). If it is pre-recorded you can stop the interview at any time
  • Make sure you are in a room where you will not be disturbed by others or by background noise such as other ringing telephones
  • Turn off any radios in the room as this will create feedback which can be heard on the radio
  • Ensure you have a glass of water to hand
  • Write three key points that you would like to make during your interview. Keep repeating these throughout to ensure your message gets heard
  • Ensure you have some notes to hand of any important facts or figures you want to get across, remember no one can see you
  • Talk in a normal conversational voice directly to the interviewer; you are having a chat so don't worry about anyone else listening.

  • TV interviews

  • Establish before the interview whether it is going to be live or pre-recorded (taped). If it is pre-recorded you can stop the interview at any time
  • If you are doing a TV (or radio) interview resist the urge to shout into the microphone. Speak and gesture naturally
  • Wherever you choose to do the interview ensure you will not be interrupted and that the area is free from background noise
  • Talk to the reporter/interviewer, not the camera
  • If you are doing a standing interview stand up straight and do not put your hands in your pockets
  • If you are sitting during the interview sit up straight and do not fidget
  • Be aware of your dress. Which attire is appropriate for the interview you are giving?
  • If radio/TV – what questions will you ask me? Broadcast journalists prepare their questions before they do the interview – it’s in the best interests of the reporter to tell you as this will help interview go more smoothly.

  • Nerves are normal

    Taking part in media interviews is nerve-racking. Even the most seasoned interviewees get nervous. Giving interviews and dealing with the media takes practice. But research and preparation is key whatever level of experience you have.