How to Prepare for a Media Interview – Media Training
May 20, 2021
Checklist of top tips to prepare for media interviews.
When interviewed live, you have no second chance. You have one great opportunity to master your media interview. But how can you practise and prepare your media interview so that you minimise the risks.
Usually you don’t have a huge amount of rehearsal time before most media interviews. But without proper preparation, media interviews are a high risk event which can damage personal and corporate reputations.
Boost your media interview success with tricks of the trade
In a media interview, you have a message to get out, and reporters have a story to write. Your goal is to make sure the reporters tell your story accurately.
But how can you get reporters to create a positive story from your media interview?
Use our ten point checklist to prepare for a media interview
- Know your story – what do you want the media to say
- Keep your story simple
- Control your media interview
- Always expect the unexpected
- Look and sound like a professional in your media interview
- Road test your media messaging
- Dial up the pressure
- Role play different media interview styles
- Test your proofs and soundbites
1. Media Interview Tip – Know your story
Prepare exactly what you want to say and understand how to make it newsworthy. Have good anecdotes as backup. The best media interviewees are absolutely clear what they want to say and – most importantly – how to make it newsworthy. Do you know what the journalist will pick up on? And how will they pitch your story to their editor. If not, you are not yet ready.
2. Prepare for media interviews – Keep it simple
Translate detail and complexity into clear easy-to-grasp ideas that are right for this audience. Your journalist who is interviewing you is not interested in becoming an expert on your subject. It is your job to translate your story into something that is relevant for your audience. If you are being interviewed for the BBC you will tell a different story from your trade journal interview.
3. Media Interview – Control the interview
A good interview is not a Q&A session. Learn how to stay in charge and move to your agenda. These are key techniques we cover in our executive media interview training.
4. Media Interview – Expect the unexpected
Practise handling difficult and trick questions. What topics will come up? How will you deal with them. We have saved many a CEO from an embarrassing media interview by getting them properly prepared.
5. Media Interview – Look like a professional
Even when not on TV, the more you rehearse, the more sincere you will look. Media interviews can be full of pitfalls. That is why media training is essential: to make sure you’re prepared for every eventuality.
6. Media interview checklist – Road test the messaging.
Although your carefully crafted messaging may read well, how does it sound when spoken out loud? Very often, messaging in a press release is the result of a committee decision that doesn’t make for natural language.
One CEO we worked with needed to stop speaking like he was reading from the Report and Accounts, and recapture his natural character in interviews. By Role-playing the results interview gave him a chance to sense-check and tweak key points and phrases after hearing how he sounded.
7. How to prepare for a media interview – Dial up the pressure.
You may have a detailed three-page Q&A, but handling difficult questions in a real interview situation is a talent. The way you respond can be just as important as your actual answer. As well as being able to respond calmly and confidently to tough questions, you should rehearse how to ‘bridge’ back to positive messages. This will keep the conversation under your control.
8. Media interview preparation – Role-play different interviewing styles.
Journalists come in various guises – the very knowledgeable, the newbie, the aggressive questioner and the flatterer. You need to prepare for the full range of scenarios.
Can you adjust your use of jargon and technical detail to match the knowledge levels of the journalist? If you are a Cambridge professor by background, you may find it hard to keep things simple. And how do you respond to extended silences or a pretty face – do you feel the need / wish to provide more information and stray off the prepared path?
That’s where your professional media training kicks in
9. How to prepare for a media interview – Test your proof points and soundbites.
Under the pressure of the media interview, do you reach for the proof points as evidence for your assertions? Do you remember to sum up your arguments with carefully crafted soundbites?
Whether those proof points and soundbites take the form of stories, facts or figures, your ability to bring them to mind and deliver them smoothly will make all the difference to your credibility on the day.
10. Media interview preparation – Practice breeds confidence.
When the first results interview for a FTSE 100 client is a 7.15am phone call with Reuters, you want to feel and sound confident from the very start, not by the sixth interview over lunch.
A thorough road-testing of your messaging and stress-testing of your performance under pressure will make all the difference between a strong, confident interviewee and a mediocre one.
How to prepare for a media interview
Tips on how to prepare for a media interview with media training.
As your company representative, you become its face and voice – the reputation of your company is now in your hands. Understanding how to handle the media is an essential skill that every executive should develop. Media training is a core management skill.
If you let the journalist to control the interview, they will get the story they want, not the story you want to tell.
Preparation is key.
Become a confident interviewee
During your interview, one badly phrased response, a lengthy hesitation or a flippant remark can bring disaster. That’s why media training is so important. For this reason, for over 15 years we have been supporting our clients for results-driven media training.
Through our tailored 1:1 and in-house media training courses, experts work with you to craft both your message and your performance. You will create a winning combination for any interview situation.
By taking a hands-on practical approach your confidence will soar and you’ll leave with new techniques that you can put in to practice straight away.
“…practical and results-orientated training…I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending their services.”
Gemma Godfrey, Fintech entrepreneur
How to Hook a Reporter’s Attention with Flagging
There’s a key media interview technique you need. It’s called Flagging. You use specific “flagging” phrases to signal to the reporter what you’re about to say is important. Reporters don’t have time to listen to rambling. And they don’t have superhuman listening abilities. Even though they’re trained to listen better than the average person, they may struggle to focus attention on what you’re saying, just like anyone else.
They may tune out parts of the conversation, especially if it starts getting off track. They might also start thinking about their next question or get distracted by looking down at their notes. When that happens, you need to get their attention back. And that’s where flagging becomes an essential tool in your arsenal of media interviewing techniques.
What is Flagging?
Flagging is an interview technique that highlights the most important parts of your messages. Flagging uses key words and phrases to grab a reporter’s attention and hook them back into the conversation.
Some flagging phrases include:
- The most important thing for people to remember is . . .
- The bottom line is this . . .
- The most critical issue is . . .
- That’s a really important question. The answer is . . .
- This is our announcement in a nutshell.
You can also use:
- The best part is . . .
- The focus of the debate should be . . .
- At the end of the day . . .
- If you walk away with anything today, it should be this.
- First and foremost, . . .
- This is what we have to say . . .
- The key thing we’re focusing on right now is . . .
As you can see, most of these flagging phrases are common transitions that help redirect the conversation with your main points. They highlight the important details that reporters are looking for in a media interview.
Tips to prepare for your next media interview
Every media interview is unique in its own way: the reporters change, the topics change, and your own familiarity with the talking points may vary depending on the topic. It’s not easy to succeed in getting accurate and favourable press from a news outlet. That’s why flagging and other media preparation strategies are so crucial to learn.
1. Using Flagging During Phone Interviews
Most of the time, you won’t be able to sit down with every reporter in person. Phone interviews are a good way to reach the most news outlets in the shortest amount of time and tell them the gist of the situation. But without non-verbal cues to help communicate your main points, it’s suddenly a lot harder to keep a reporter’s interest.
That’s why verbal cues such as flagging are a must when conducting over-the-phone interviews. It’s helpful to write out notes to refer to during the phone call. Include flagging phrases in these notes if you’re not great at using them on the fly.
2. Sound Professional at Short Notice
Time isn’t always your ally when news breaks. Though you may have a written statement to follow, you want to sound as natural and prepared for the interview as possible. That’s why flagging can be a useful fallback when you need to draw in focus on the main points. It’s natural, conversational, and professional language that will make you sound like you know what’s going on.
Flagging also creates easy soundbites for reporters and media outlets to pull from and can make all the difference on building a strong reputation for your organization.
3. Take on Challenging and Negative Press
Not all media interviews are going to be in your best interest. But having a statement out there for the public can mitigate the damage or put a positive spin on the current state of affairs. Reporters love to deliver rapid-fire, hard-pressing questions that keep you on your toes.
But if you take a deep breath and use flagging to redirect the conversation, then you stay in control of what they’re jotting down.
How to become a compelling media interviewee
The Most Successful Way to Bring Flagging into Your Media Interview Preparation
Flagging is a great communication technique to add to your repertoire, but it has to be used effectively to deliver the desired results. For starters, we recommend that you understand and clarify your key messages based on our how-to guide How to Prepare for a Media Interview.
If a question will address a key issue, make sure to use an appropriate flagging phrase to get the reporter’s attention. This is especially important on your first and final comments which have the most impact.
Learning More About Flagging and Other Media Interview Techniques
Media interviews are your best chance at reeling in the public. They cast a wide net, especially if you’re able to hook a big news platform. However, interviews can also make or break your personal and corporate reputation. You should never go unprepared!
That’s why it pays to have proper media interview preparation training from experienced trainers that know the ins and outs of the trade.
Our media trainers are all former journalists that have advised countless corporate clients in media preparation training. From FTSE100 CEOs, global corporates and top executives, we’ve helped them all learn the ropes for every type of media interview.
What do you do next?
With all the time and effort that goes into organising and preparing for a media interview, the best companies invest in expert media training.
Even if they are very experienced, the best executives always rehearse, just as an experienced actor would. After all, in the words of Shakespeare, ‘All the world’s a stage’…
Bring in the media training experts
Whether you are in the middle of a crisis, preparing for a specific media interview or simply polishing your media handling skills ahead of your full-year results, bring in the experts.
All of Our media trainers – all former journalists – advise FTSE100 CEOs, global corporates and top executives on every type of media interview. We use tailored role play and on-camera coaching to ensure that you perform at your best under pressure.
About Benjamin Ball Associates
At Benjamin Ball Associates, we help clients to pitch, present & persuade.
Over the last 15+ years the award-winning BBA team has supported thousands of executives globally to talk to the media confidently. You get access to a transformational toolbox of techniques to help you become a clear, confident communicator.
We’ll help you create a powerful first impression and we’ll transform you to deliver clearly, confidently and with impact.
Speak to Louise on +44 20 7018 0922 or email email@example.com to find out more and discuss your upcoming media encounter.
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