Contact Info Resources Home FAQ Calendar Tools of the Trade Strategy and Planning Just Starting Home
SEARCH

SUCCESSFUL INTERVIEWING
MEDIA TIPS: 5 GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR A SUCCESSFUL INTERVIEW

  1. Prepare. Ask yourself, 'What is my goal with this interview?' Know the one, two or three (max) key points you want to make; have simple facts and figures ready to support those points. Use every opportunity to answer questions and then reiterate one of your main points.

  2. Use the Three C's.

    Concise. Typically, your comments will be edited to about 5 to 15 seconds or a short sentence. Focus on getting your points across efficiently. Avoid long words and lengthy sentences. Also, it is better to pause to gather your thoughts than to rely on fillers like "uh-uh-uh," "like," or "you know."

    Conversational. Avoid insider jargon and policy-laden language; use words and descriptions that the average reader/viewer will understand. When you must use jargon, explain it - briefly.

    Catchy. The reporter is looking for the catchy phrase or soundbite. To ensure your main points are included, say them in a clever fashion. If you just presented a key point in an unclear or rambling way, stop for a second and make your point again. The reporter needs the quote to make sense.

  3. Say What You Want to Say: Avoid Five Common Traps.

    Don't Repeat the Reporter's Words. At times a reporter will use language in a question that is confusing or even negative. Sometimes the goal is to bait you into a certain type of answer. The question won't appear in the final version, but your answer will, so don't repeat it.

    Don't Lose Your Cool. A reporter may play devil's advocate just to get a colorful response. Don't give an angry or defensive response -- simply redirect your answer to one of your main points. Reporters get the last word, so don't get into a verbal tussle.

    There is No Such Thing as "Off the Record." If you don't want something reported, don't tell the reporter.

    Don't Be Led Into Hypothetical Situations. If the reporter says, "Assume that..." or "What if...." and you don't like the direction being taken, respond with something like: "I can't speculate on the unknown, however..." and restate one of your main points.

    Don't Fill (Awkward) Silent Pauses. Often a reporter will pause after you have responded to a question, waiting for you to elaborate. Don't feel the need to fill in the silent pauses (sometimes reporters are using this awkward pause to get you to say something you otherwise wouldn't); simply wait for the next question and insert one of your key points.

  4. Be Friendly, Honest and Yourself. Never lie. If you don't know the answer, say so, and then say you'll try to find out the information and get it to the reporter as soon as possible. Never respond to a question with "no comment." It sounds like you're hiding something. Rather, generously describe why you cannot specifically answer that question and direct the conversation back to one of your main points.

  5. You Have More Control Than You Think. Remember, reporters are conduits, they are not your ultimate audience. Their audience is your audience, so address your points to the public. Use every opportunity to answer a question and bridge back to one of your main points. You have more control than you think.

Back to Successful Interviewing.

Environmental Media Services
1320 18th Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 463-6670
ems@ems.org

©1999 Environmental Media Services