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Survival guide for media interviews

The three golden rules for performing at your best:

  • Know your topic
  • Be prepared
  • Relax

Ten tips to help prepare for and handle media interviews:

1. Think about three key points and work on them. You must be able to deliver these flawlessly. Write them down. Writing things heps fix them in the mind and seeing them written down aids recall under pressure.

2. Anticipate the toughest question and prepare/rehearse your answer.

3. Work on your ‘quotable quote’. Your message must be succinct, memorable and to the point. You need to prepare soundbites if you are going to deliver soundbites.

4. Be able to cover your key points in a conversational manner. Don’t memorise, it will sound memorised.

5. Drink plenty of water. Keep hydrated, avoid alcohol, caffeine and milk – they can dull the senses and gum up your mouth.

6. Speak with increased energy. Speak at a higher volume, range, tone and pitch than you would normally. You need to be conscious that you are speaking in a slightly more animated style than usual.

7. Look at the interviewer. Look directly at the interviewer, never look at the camera. Looking around will make you appear shifty and untrustworthy.

8. Less is more. Your message needs to be accessible to the greatest number of people possible therefore, keep it simple. And you need to know when to stop talking. Media interviews require you get to the bottom line as quickly, and as quotably, as you can.

9. Practice, practice, practice. The people who are very good at handling the media are almost always those who have had the most practice. If you accept that it is a new skill for you and an alien environment you will both prepare accordingly and, be realistic about the improvement you expect to see each time you do it.

10. Review, evaluate, improve. What worked well? What could be improved? What will you work on for next time?

Preparing key messages and sound bites

When the journalist is talking to you he/she is listening out for the quotes and sound bites that they will use in the piece – your job is to come up with them.

To deliver “quotable quotes” you do need to prepare quotable quotes – this doesn’t mean reading back from notes and sounding scripted, but having great phrases to hand that illustrate the point you want to make.

To prepare you need to:

Brainstorm – You need to brainstorm the subject you are talking about – write down every possible point you could make on the subject.

Focus – You then need to distil this output down to three main points either by ranking your points in importance or grouping categories together. The final three points should be positive not negative and concise.

Impact – You need to sum up the points by preparing your quotable quotes and gather the evidence you need to illustrate your point (case studies, facts, stats)

During the interview you need to:

Make the point concisely – then emphasise it. In addition to your quotable quotes try using phrases like “The really important thing is…” or “The key point about the Birmingham market is this…”

Back it up – mention your examples and be prepared to talk a bit more about them. Use facts and figures – give journalists a sense of scale – is it a £300k turnover business or £30m? One man band or 250 staff?

Link your points – try and give the journalist a road map of where you are going. Don’t be afraid to say “there are three main points here…” and then go though them one at a time.

And finally… don’t forget to breathe!

When you feel stressed, you start taking shallow breaths from the upper part of the chest. Increasing the supply of oxygen to the brain and body helps you think more clearly and relax. Before the interview, try to relax by practising “Diaphragmatic” or deep breathing. This involves taking slow, deep breaths from the abdomen.

Breath in through your nose to the slow count of six. Breathe out through your nose to the slow count of three. Concentrate on moving the air in and out of your body.