The reason why you are being interviewed by a journalist is because they are looking for a story whether it be a news, feature or just a “what’s on” style story. The journalist may have approached you directly, or it may be the result from a media release sent out by either yourself or a publicity department. Either way, being involved in editorial is very different to placing an ad. If you were placing an ad you would be paying for the space and would have complete control of the content.
It’s not all about you/your organisation. So, when you are speaking with a journalist, it’s important not to sound like an ad. More importantly, you need to provide them with a good story that will interest their readers.
Be generous, but maintain your integrity. Try not to think that you are just getting something for yourself, you need to give as well. Having said that, it’s still very important that you retain your integrity. If speaking on behalf of your organisation, it’s important that you reflect the organisation’s values. The best way to achieve your objective/s is through preparation. It’s never a bad idea to write a list of possible questions and ask a work colleague/your communications agency to conduct a mock interview. This process also does wonders for settling nerves.
Take opportunities to lead the discussion when they’re presented. The sooner you do this the better, that way it’s more likely that the interview stays focussed on your key messages. Key messages are essentially the key points you want to communicate to the journalist. Ideally, key messages should have been included in a media release, but if you don’t have a media release prepared, it’s a good idea to make some notes.
Be interesting. As mentioned earlier, you have an obligation to the journalist to provide something newsworthy and of interest to their readers. There’s no point waiting until the very end of the interview before sharing the most interesting part of your story, you may never get the chance. News stories are written in a style called the “inverted pyramid”, which means the most important information is at the top and the least important is at the bottom. That’s because if the editor needs to shorten the story to fit the page, they can simply cut from the bottom. So when you’re speaking to the journalist, speak in the inverted pyramid and always say the most important points first.
Know the publication/journo. Try to do some research on the publication or the journalist. If you know the journalist’s past work, you can refer to it in conversation, you will also have a better appreciation of their individual style.