Threes NOT a crowd: tips on media interviews

D/A Henry Wade (l) conducts press conf. in line-up room / New York Herald Tribune photo by Bill Sauro

With an increasing number and frequency of media outlets, podcasts, blogs and avenues for exposure, it has never been more important to be media savvy.

Nowadays the average sound bite is approximately seven seconds, a far cry from the 60-second sound bite common 30 years ago. And there’s no longer a 24-hour news cycle, instead we have an every-second news cycle.

Therefore being on message and getting there fast is essential when being interviewed by the media. If you do nothing else to prepare for an interview, you must prepare three key messages to convey during the interview. No more, no less.

If you don’t edit your story down to the three most important points, then an editor, producer or audience member will edit it for you. And often your most important messages will be lost and not remembered.

If you have to speak to the media on a regular basis then you should undertake some media training. In the meantime, here are a few basic tips to help you handle media interviews:

1. Give yourself time to prepare, even if that means calling a reporter back when on deadline. Get your messages ready first.

2. Practice, practice, practice: Like a professional sportsperson, the more you do something, the better you will become at it. It takes time and practice to be comfortable with preparing your three messages, getting your sound bites right and staying on message, so it’s best you practice.

3. Give details and examples to help make your point and flesh out your story. Telling stories helps to deliver your message to an audience.

4. Avoid fact and figures, lists, jargon, catch phrases, acronyms – they’re boring with a capital B.

5. Keep it natural and speak at your normal pace. Steer clear of big unfamiliar words but don’t dumb down your message too much either.

6. For radio interviews, check whether the interview is live or pre-recorded and what it’s being used for. If you’re doing the interview over the phone, make sure you’re in a noise-free environment.

7. Drink plenty of water and keep a bottle handy. Avoid caffeine or dairy before the interview as it can affect your speech (dry mouth, licking lips eek). Also don’t interview on an empty stomach. Your tummy grumblings will only distract you and perhaps the listeners. Grrrrrr

8. After each interview, review your performance. Figure out what worked well and what could be improved. Ask a friend or colleague to give you some feedback too. (If you can’t find a friend to be brutally honest, my mother is always willing to provide some frank feedback.)

9. Again, develop three key messages for the interview and make sure you know them off by heart and get them out early.

10. Finally have fun – it’s not the Spanish Inquisition ☺

There are plenty more handy hints and tips however if you prepare your messages and keep it simple, you’ll be an old hand in no time.

Call Jack or Maryann on 03 9676 9040 or email if you want to learn more about how our crew can help you with media training or publicity campaigns to get you the interviews.

Or you can simply ignore us and take tips from Sarah Palin 😛

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