No one’s born a media maven. It takes a lot of practice to learn how to get comfortable being interviewed, whether on the phone, in-person or on camera. But before you know it, you’ll go from being an “Em-i-ly” to the Andy Sachs of any Miranda Preistly’s eye. If you’re looking to build your presence and position yourself as the go-to expert in your industry, here are the pertinent questions you should ask before the interview:
DATE AND TIME: When setting up a media interview, the first thing you’ll want to know is the deadline. A lot of reporters and producers treat their deadline like they’re Keifer Sutherland watching the clock tick down on 24, so be sure to get them what they need ON TIME and not a minute later. Some reporters might need a quote within the hour, and some TV producers might want to book you for a breaking news story that very evening. In some cases, you might even have a week to prepare, which happens often for segments that require lifestyle or cooking props. If you can consistently be dependable as a source, your media contacts will come to rely on you for future pieces. In fact, you’ll soon find that you won’t even have to actively pitch some of your contacts. They’ll come seeking YOU.
FORMAT: As Edna Mode from The Incredibles says, “Luck favors the prepared, dah-ling.” And being as prepared as possible for an interview is KEY. If it’s a print or online interview, find out if you can respond to the reporter’s questions in an email, or if they would prefer to talk on the phone or in-person. They might prefer this set-up in case they have follow-up questions or are doing a profile piece on you. And if it’s a TV interview, you should also ask if it’ll be a live taping (in which case you’ll need to know your talking points since there are no retakes. If the interview will feature other experts, then check to see if you’re all supporting the same angle or if you’ll be participating in a debate format.
LENGTH: Just like any important meeting you put on your calendar, find out how much time will be needed for the interview and allot that time accordingly. Some reporters might just need a quick quote to help add some color to a story they’re already working on, which might only require 5-10 minutes. Others might ask for 30 minutes, and if it’s for a TV segment, producers will ask you to appear about 30-45 minutes before the scheduled air time. And it’s natural to have some nerves going into the interview, so just take a deep breath and go into each one with a Green Day mindset to have the time of your life. After all, it should be fun! You never know which interview or segment could be the turning point for your business, and interviews will get easier with practice.
STYLING: If you’re going to appear on TV, most producers will request that you arrive hair and make-up ready. As much as you might want to say, “It doesn’t matter how I got here, the point is, I’ve arrived,” you’re going to be out of luck if you plan to show up with wet hair and a bare face. There are times when they might have someone on-site who can help with touch-ups, but for the most part, you should expect to handle all of your own styling. Also, if you’re going to appear on camera or in front of a backdrop, avoid busy prints and patterns and stick to solid colors. If there’s any chance you might appear in front of a green screen, then definitely avoid wearing green on set that day as the digital image will show up ON you instead of behind you. Remember, you want to come across as an expert, not as a CGI extra in the latest DC Extended Universe film (unless it’s the Wonder Woman sequel, then count us in!)
SAMPLE QUESTIONS: Many reporters and producers are willing to share sample questions before an interview. This is a great way to prepare your talking points and bring up any concerns you might have about the interview angle or topics. These questions are just a Wish List of what the outlet would like to touch base on, but you can give these preliminary questions the Tinder treatment. Just think about it as if you’re swiping Right on the questions you want to answer and Left on the ones you’d rather not. Now that doesn’t mean that they’ll agree not to ask certain questions, but highlighting to them which questions make the most sense based on your expertise may help in the long run.
Ready to shine? Good. “You go, Glen Coco!” Use these points as a checklist when booking an interview and you’ll be set for ongoing successful media placements. As a bonus, you’ll also minimize the odds of any last minute surprises when you see the final article or broadcast clip. Be sure to comment below once you’ve put these tips into play, would love to hear how they work out for you!