Being interviewed: What to do before you start?
If you are planning to try and elicit media coverage – in other words it’s a proactive story – then you probably actually want the coverage. However if you are reacting to something that may have gone wrong, chances are the media will come to you. Whatever the case, it’s very easy to become obsessed with the interview planning process forgetting some simple guidance.
Firstly, ask yourself, what’s in this media interview or engagement opportunity for me/us? Am I simply helping the journalist fill space or can I detect some kind of competitive advantage, hoping to influence and persuade the audience of our position.
The 24/7 news ‘beast’ continually needs ‘feeding’ so the demands from journalists can be even greater these days than they ever have before. Ironically, as we will see in later blogs, while the opportunities have increased, your exposure – or appearance/clip – is often shorter these days than it’s ever been.
Secondly, look at logistics: how will the actual exchange take place – and also who else is involved. Don’t simply assume it’s just you being interviewed…there may well be another voice or voices involved. You will also need to look at whether this is a face to face interview, if it’s on Teams or Zoom and what the format will be.
Any interview you undertake will be recorded by the reporter – even something for print. (Shorthand skills aren’t what they were!) However, essentially you will only ever undertake two different types of interview: live or pre-recorded. Live is much easier: it follows the contours of conventional conversation, there is a recovery ‘option’ if you don’t quite nail your position in the first response – and the audience hear the entire exchange in context.
Pre-records are tougher. Even though they might feel easier to do, as you can pause and re-take poor responses, the ultimate selection of the quote or soundbite is decided by the journalist. This means from the ‘buffet’ of responses, the audience only hear one. This is transmitted or published with no reference points. Furthermore, the fact the audience don’t experience the entire conversation you had with the reporter, means they have no way of knowing whether the comments were intended or just busked in the heat of the moment.
There’s always a range of enquiries you need to make before deciding if a media exchange suits you; don’t be bounced into an interview – and, most importantly, make sure whoever fronts up the performance has been taken through their media techniques and paces first.