Going the Distance – How to Nail Your Next Press Interview

With the Fall in full swing, it’s marathon season across the country. Our East Coast office served as a backdrop for this year’s Boston Marathon (some of our staffers made a point of coming into the office just to be part of the excitement after the year we’ve all had), and our other offices in Austin and the Bay Area have their own races just around the corner. 

The media relations process can sometimes feel like a marathon – you’ve studied the course and done some initial preparation (tips on that from our original post here), built and conditioned your credibility online (our last installment here), and now you’re finally ready to sit down and share your expertise with the media. 

Here are some tips for ‘going the distance’ and making your next press interview a successful one. 

Be Prepared 

Like any good athlete, you need to prepare yourself mentally and physically before you sit down for an interview.  We’ve already covered the importance of briefing materials in one of our earlier posts, and you should absolutely use that information and guidance to help prepare yourself. Other things you should do before the interview to prepare: 

  • Find a quiet place to conduct the interview – Whether it’s a phone conversation or a video call, you’ll want to find an area with minimal outside noise or distraction.   
  • Have your messages ready and practice them – Whether it’s an introductory briefing or a more specific story you’re being interview for, you want to have between three and five key messages about your business that you can incorporate into the conversation.  These are the main takeaways that you want the reporter to leave the conversation with, and that tie back to your core business. To avoid sounding robotic, you’ll want to practice with a partner playing the role of the journalist (your PR team should provide you with some sample questions to help with this as part of your briefing document and should also coordinate time for a mock interview if this is your first time).   
  • Block out some ‘you’ time before the interview – If possible, try to block out about 10-15 minutes of time before the interview to do any final prep.  If you have a PR person joining the call with you, this would be the time to ask any last minute questions and go over specific goals for the conversation.  Otherwise, you should use this time to mentally prepare yourself and take care of any personal needs (using the bathroom, grabbing a drink, etc.). 

With all the prep work done, it’s time for the main event. 

Off and Running 

You’ve dialed in/logged on, fired up your camera, made introductions and you’re diving right into the conversation.  Now that you’re off and running, some general things to remember: 

  • The interview is NOT meant to be a sales pitch/presentation.  One of the most common challenges for executives that are speaking to press for the first time is getting out of the ‘salesperson’ mindset, and you need to strike a balance between your agenda (telling your company/showcasing your expertise) and the reporters’ (telling a compelling story).  Keep the introduction brief and stay focused on the topic at hand. 
  • Anything you say during the interview will be ‘on the record’ unless otherwise stipulated beforehand. Don’t comment on anything outside of your area of expertise, and if you don’t know something, let the reporter know that you’ll follow up with them with that information (again, only if it’s information that you can publicly disclose). 
  • Be Authentic/Engaging – You spent the time establishing your credibility online with thoughtful and engaging content, and you’ll want to bring that same energy and authority to the interview.  Try to avoid industry jargon wherever possible and provide relevant examples/anecdotes when explaining more complex concepts (unless your audience/the reporter is more technical; in that case, feel free to dive into the weeds and roll around a bit).  Most importantly – be engaging and authentic, and it will make the reporter more likely to want to reconnect with you for future opportunities. 

Once the interview is done, you should follow up with the reporter to thank them and offer to provide additional context to any responses if needed (this is also a great time to address any questions you may have said that you need to ‘get back to them on’, and to provide a medium to hi-res photo for them to publish with the article). You should do this within 24 hours of the conversation (the sooner the better) to keep everything fresh for the reporter. 

Crossing the Finish Line 

Congratulations – you’ve made it through the interview, and you’re feeling that rush of endorphins that come from a major accomplishment.  But don’t get cocky – one good interview is just the beginning.  A truly successful media relations program is built around solid strategy with performance goals, and my colleagues and I at 10Fold are ready to help you go the distance. 

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