Earlier this month, many of us watched former FBI director James Comey’s interview on “60 Minutes.” You can be sure that Comey spent hours preparing for his interview – anticipating questions, developing key messages and practicing his delivery – before he was on camera. The result was that he was able to appear calm and collected.
As law firm media professionals, part of our work entails securing interviews for attorneys on topics they wish to discuss, and securing an interview with a well-respected reporter at a target publication can feel like a home run. However, getting the interview can be just the beginning of the heavy lifting. It is just as important to make sure the attorney is well-prepared to ensure that the interview runs smoothly, the attorney communicates her target messages, and the relationship between the attorney and reporter is developed so the reporter will come back for a future article.
How to Prep for a Media Interview
Taking the time to prepare for a media interview can soothe the attorney’s pre-interview jitters and also make it a much more productive meeting for the reporter. The following media training tips should help the process:
- Know your audience: Before your interview, take a few moments to learn about the outlet’s demographic. Most trade and business publications include demographic information in the media kits that they post to their websites. If the media kit is not available online and there is time, ask the reporter to share the information. Understanding the audience will help attorneys tailor how they deliver their key messages.
- Know the reporter: Again, take a few moments to read some of the articles that the reporter recently published. This way, you will have a sense of her style and what issues are important to her. It also helps build rapport with the reporter if you are able to reference an article she wrote. And don’t forget to check Twitter to get a better sense of the reporter’s interests. Jaffe, we often prepare briefing sheets for our clients that include the publication’s demographics, some biographical information about the reporter and a few recent articles. If you think the reporter did a good job of reporting on the issue, tell her. Don’t go overboard, but everyone likes to hear that their work was appreciated and well-received.
- Know what you are getting into: Often reporters will share a few questions or a broad outline of what the interview will cover before the interview. If there is enough time, it does not hurt to ask. If not, do a little bit of research on the topic to make sure you know your facts. You can usually get a good sense of what the reporter will ask by reviewing other articles she wrote about the same topic.
- Have a sense of what you are going to say: Think about the issue to be discussed ahead of time and jot down a few key messages. Refer back to your notes during the interview to ensure that you are not going off-topic. Remember that you are speaking in sound bites, so be sure your answers are clear and concise. If you are asked a question that you are unable to answer, try to steer the discussion back to the messages you want to communicate.
- Think before you speak: Once you say it, you can’t take it back. If you are speaking about a particularly sensitive issue, choose your words carefully. Better yet, pivot to something you can discuss.
For more tips on making the most of your media interviews, email me, Stephanie Holtzman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.