Media interview 101. Make sure you know what to say BEFORE you say it.

Tracy Marlowe  |  October 9, 2014

interview-microphonesInterviews are great opportunities to get your message out to the public – especially if they’re interviews that will be carried live on radio or TV. But if you’re new to doing to interviews, or even if you’ve done it quite a bit, it can be a little nerve-wracking to have a conversation you know is being transmitted live to people or will be used in an article that people will be able to read.

That’s why it helps to be prepared before the interview starts, and the best way to do that is through preparing speaking points.

When you create speaking points for an interview, you’re anticipating the questions that are going to be asked of you, and you’re thinking about answers that will help tell your story best. You can’t know everything that a media person might ask, but if you do a good job preparing your speaking points, you can use them no matter what direction the interview takes.

The first step in preparing speaking points is to think about the most important things to get across to your audience – why people should attend your event, support your organization, or whatever else your story might entail.

Then, you want to prepare four or five 10-to-15 second speaking points that sound conversational, but focus on a specific point that you want to emphasize. This could include information you want your audience to have, calls to action you want to make – whatever it is that you feel will help your audience best interact with your organization.

Once you have them and you’re happy with them, you want to practice them until you’re comfortable delivering them. If everything goes well in the interview, you’ll find places in which to drop in your speaking points and make them part of the interview.

But if there’s a point in the interview where the questioning confuses you, or brings up something unexpected, you can do something called “bridging to a key message,” which allows you to sidestep the question and change the conversation. It’s as simple as saying, “I don’t know about that, but what I do know is,” and then moving into the key message. Changing the conversation can happen if you have a place where the conversation can go – the speaking point will help you lead your interviewer into a place that’s more comfortable for you.

And, if you don’t deliver them exactly as you practiced them, that’s okay, too. Practicing them helps commit them to memory, and gives you something to fall back on if you can’t think of what to say. And since they contain the most important elements of what you want to say, it’s a good idea to have them in mind as the interview starts. But interviews are conversations and they’re sometimes unpredictable. Speaking points, in the end, aren’t there to make you feel scripted and saying things that don’t feel like you – they’re there to make you feel prepared.

phil west public relationsPhil West, Guest Contributor

PR Professional

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