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How to Optimize Your Interview Experience; 5 Basic Media Training Tips

Whether the glare of the studio lights and being “live,” or potentially being misquoted or taken out of context, speaking with the press for most can be particularly intimidating - especially if you're new to the game. However, it's important to remember that like you and me, reporters, editors and producers are just people – and they're just trying to do their job. So, your best bet is to make their job – and your interview – as easy as possible.

Media coverage can and should always be viewed as an opportunity to help you and your company gain exposure, build credibility and generate additional connections to your existing and prospective target audience. But with that opportunity comes responsibility: to ensure you use media opportunities effectively to tell your story.

Below are five key insights into what to do in virtually all media opportunities, and, more importantly, what not to do.

Tip One: Make sure you understand the opportunity

Before you plunge into a media opportunity as if it's a day to day conversation, take some time to understand the opportunity. Do your research on the interviewer, the media outlet, similar stories and so on.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions. What is the interviewer looking for? Where will this be featured?

Review the interview request and any other corresponding information thoroughly. Once you have developed an understanding of the opportunity and what to expect, you can begin to develop your key messages.

Tip Two: Develop clear and concise key messages

Many make the mistake of trying to answer every question put in front of them and provide as much information as possible, but it is important to remember that the press, and the audiences they serve, aren't looking for copious amounts of information – they are looking for useful information.

This is why it's extremely important to develop clear key messages, or talking points. A public relations professional can be a helpful resource in crafting key messages for a media appearance or opportunity. One of the things PR folks are great at is helping synthesize multiple aspects of a person or brand into succinct sound-bites.

Key messages often include 3-5 bullet points that you want anyone who reads the article to know about you and your business and / or product.

Tip Three: Prepare yourself

Preparation depends on the type of media opportunity. Many believe a telephone interview involves less preparation than an on-air appearances, but this isn’t always the case.

Preparation begins with research and development of key messages, but it doesn’t end there. It includes everything from the way you look for an on-air interview to the information you are presenting and how you are presenting it. Prior to the interview, make sure to study your talking points, gather any materials or information you may need and practice! There is no shame in practicing in front of a mirror. Better still, ask a colleague or friend to play “journalist” for 10 minutes.

Tip Four: Focus the Conversation

A common bit of feedback I receive from clients following media interviews is that they feel they didn’t have the chance to say what they really wanted to say. There is an obvious workaround to this: Focus on bringing the dialogue back to your key talking points.

How to do this? In the PR world, we call it blocking and bridging: connector phrases to naturally transition the conversation away from the story the reporter is trying to tell to the story you want to tell. Phrases such as, “That’s a great question, but the bigger issue is…” or, “I’m not deeply familiar with that particular topic, but I do know that…”

Additionally, remember who you are representing – you are not just there for yourself. Always look to work in your company name. This will not only earn you credibility, it will also elicit positive attention for your company and brand.

Tip Five: Have Personality

Your attitude during the media opportunity is going to translate to the viewers and/or readers. Try to relax and stay focused, and it never hurts to show enthusiasm!

Don’t cling so tight to your key messages that you forget to be yourself. This is especially applicable to on-air appearances, as your personality will be what makes you memorable. You could be the most knowledgeable person possible on a given subject, but if the way you deliver information lacks personality, people will be less likely to listen.

A memorable personality not only gain your and your company positive attention and/or publicity, it typically also leads to additional media opportunities!

After the interview

Always try to follow up with the interviewer with any additional information you may have offered – this applies more so for print and/or web stories. It's also nice to thank the interviewer and leave the lines of communication open for future opportunities.

If you are just beginning to dip you toes into the world of media opportunities, consider looking into a media training program through a PR agency for the most thorough education on media training.

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