JAIMIE ABBOTT: Best thing to do for an interview is be prepared

MANY people think of a media interview as just answering a bunch of questions about a topic with which they are familiar.

How difficult can it be answering questions about a business you have been working for or with for a significant part of your life? Well, if you are not careful, it could well be very difficult! I’ve seen many people miss out on the opportunity to get their key messages across in a media interview, which is then a wasted PR opportunity.

Here are my five top tips to get the most out of media interviews.

■Know your interviewer. Until you are aware of who is going to be asking you the questions during your media interview, you can never really know what to expect, or what to prepare for.

If you know which journalist is going to be interviewing you, it might be helpful to look through some previous stories they have done so you know what you have in store.

■Rehearse. It is always helpful to practise giving a media interview before the actual thing.

It might be difficult to know what questions to expect, but you could try a wide range of them just to be sure you are perfect on the day.

Practising not only helps get rid of interview jitters, but it also gives you a chance to hear your answers and do any tweaking if you feel necessary. Get a friend or colleague to throw some questions at you.

■Be honest. If you don’t know the answer to a particular question that the interviewer has posed, the best option is to just be honest and say you don’t know.

Many interviewees become flustered when they don’t know what to say, and end up saying something that may not be in their best interest. If the interview is not live, you may even offer to come back with an answer at a later time.

■Be precise. The last thing you want to do in an interview is volunteer information beyond what is being asked of you.

Not only can it put your interviewer off, you may also end up saying something that is detrimental to your interests.

It is important to remember that sometimes less is more, and that brief, precise answers are best for most media interviews. While sticking to the point, try not to repeat questions, especially if they are negative.

■Key messages. Prepare three to five key messages that you want to see included in the story and what you want your audience to remember.

When developing the key messages, use simple words and make sure they cover Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? – which are the main questions reporters are likely to have about your story.

Jaimie Abbott is the owner of Newcastle-based public relations agency Jaimie Abbott Communications

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