Last week, my colleague wrote a helpful tip on how to capitalize on breaking news. In this week’s column, I provide some guidance on the next step in that action plan – acing that coveted media interview.

Even though it may be intimidating to have a reporter keyed into your every word, media interviews – if done well – can be critical in managing and improving your public reputation.

Here are 5 tips for successful media interviews. 

  1. Know the medium – Newspaper reporters will approach the interview differently than broadcast reporters, but a good rule of thumb is to keep your comments brief, on point and free of legalese. This is especially important for broadcast interviews, where the meeting may last 30 minutes but your sound bite will be reduced to less than 10 seconds.
  2. Draft key messages – With only 10 seconds to make your point, it’s important to know ahead of time what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Prepare a list of three key points and be ready to repeat them so your messages are heard.
  3. Always assume the microphone is hot – To avoid a gaffe like the one by CNN’s Kyra Phillips, who visited the ladies’ room while her microphone was still turned on, assume that your mic is always live and that everything you say is on the record and could potentially end up in the story.
  4. Use every question as an opportunity to tell your story –- Instead of a yes or no answer, expand on why, talk about what else can still be done, discuss the impact of legislation or the outcome of the case, etc. Use the opportunity to drive your messages home.
  5. Flag important points – A really good way to make sure your messages are heard and that you are quoted accurately is to flag important points for the reporter by using key phrases like, “If you were to quote me, I’d say..,” “The main takeaway is ...” or “The most important point to consider is …”

Ultimately, the best preparation for media interviews is to know the reporters who cover your region, industry and areas of practice. Read their stories, speak to them on background and, when the opportunity presents itself, attend “meet the press” events like the one coming up with the Legal Marketing Association’s Austin, Houston and San Antonio chapters to help you understand how reporters work and what they expect from an interview.