Interviewing Like a Pro

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Interviews are an important part of media advocacy. Use these tips to help make the most out of your interview.

Pitching a Story

You can't always count on a reporter coming to you for a story. You can make a national headline localized by adding a community context. This gives you the opportunity to share your story.

  1. Look for a national headline that lines up with your effort.
  2. Call the reporter and specifically mention the article.
  3. Describe your issue of concern. Use key messages and data to support your case.
  4. Use local examples. What is your community doing to address this issue?
  5. What is your call to action? Join our coalition?

Landed an interview? Great! Use the tips below to polish your skills.

Before the Interview

Prepare yourself with the following tips:

  1. Review your key messages, and ensure that they are:
    • True. Don't make things up.
    • Simple. Key messages are not mission statements.
    • Memorable. Anyone should be able to remember them.
    • Persuasive. Your message should influence the audience.
  2. Know your topic but avoid jargon.
  3. Practice with someone.
  4. Know the desired outcome of the interview (why were you asked to do the interview?).

During the Interview

There are a few general things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it short and simple.
  • Ignore the reporter's attitude and be pleasant.
  • Avoid "no comment". Instead say, "I can't really talk about that, but I can tell you..."
  • Build bridges back to your key points whenever possible.
  • Use stories to illustrate your key messages.
  • Remember everything is on the record.
  • Ask for clarification on questions you don't understand.
  • Use positive language.
  • If you don't know the answer, be honest and say so.

Different Types of Interviews

Each type of interview, whether it be print media or broadcast media, has its own considerations. Review each type below so you are always prepared:

Print Media

  • During a phone interview you risk being misquoted. Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Turn off your cell phone and computer. Minimize distractions.
  • Smile while you are talking.
  • The more information, the better.
  • Offer to respond to follow-up questions.
  • It's okay to say you don't know. Offer to look into it, and get back to the reporter by deadline.

Broadcast Media (Television)

  • Ignore the production staff. This is a conversation between you and the reporter.
  • Talk to the reporter, not the camera.
  • Minimize movement. Don't rock, sway, or use large hand gestures.
  • Wear make-up and avoid loud prints or white clothing.
  • Speak in sound bites. Run through those key messages!
  • Assume the camera is always on.
  • Don't forget to smile!

Broadcast Media (Radio)

  • Talk to the reporter, not the microphone.
  • Talk in pictures. Describe events, places, people, and situations.
  • Know the audience.
  • Speak clearly and slowly.
  • When doing a phone interview, stand up and smile. It'll come across in the interview.
  • Direct listeners to a website or phone number for more information. Do it multiple times.