How To Handle The Media’s Tough Questions – And Come Out Smiling

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What makes for a good talk radio or TV show, or a captivating newspaper or magazine article? Often, it’s a little controversy – just the thing many people being interviewed by the media hope to avoid.

They want a friendly chat, but they fear an inquisition.

I confess to a mixed view here. I understand the value of a robust debate – and I also sympathize with the trepidation of our clients who are afraid they’ll be lobbed a live grenade instead of a polite question. But remember this: people go head-to-head with talk show hosts and print journalists every day and emerge smiling with their dignity and all their body parts intact. How? They’re prepared.

You can be, too. Let me share a few tricks for holding your own during a media interview, regardless of whether the person asking the questions decides to stir things up or not:

  • Make it a conversation. During the interview, don’t picture yourself on a stage or as a voice blaring from car stereo speakers. Instead, talk with the interviewer as if the two of you are having a conversation in your living room. I’ve had many clients tell me that once they understood this approach, interviews were much easier no matter what direction the journalist or talk show host tried to steer the interview.
  • Boil down your thoughts to three to five bullet points. These will be the messages you want to get across, the information that will be the most valuable to the readers, listeners or viewers. (Note: I know the message most valuable to you is “buy my book/product/service,” but the media and their audiences don’t want to hear a sales pitch. Give them something they can use, learn from or laugh about and they’ll be more likely to remember you.) Write your bullet points on a note card or a piece of paper and have that in front of you during the interview. That way, if you go blank or get sidetracked, you can quickly get back on topic.
  • If you don’t know, don’t bluff. If a talk show host or a journalist asks a question you can’t answer or cites a report, event or statistic you’re not familiar with, be honest and say so. Then go to your bullet points and ease the conversation back toward your message.
  • Realize that any information publicly available about you is fair game. Google your name and see what pops up. Anything that you can easily find, the person who’s going to interview you can, too – and could ask about. Be aware of what’s out there – and be ready, just in case. You won’t be caught off guard if you’ve thought about the possibilities.

Media interviews are easier than you might think – if you remember the three P’s: preparation, practice and passion.

Where does passion come in, you ask? That’s how strongly you feel about your message. We often tell our clients to focus on what’s closest to their hearts and they’ll have no problem delivering their message, or defending it.

Now that you’re ready for those interviews, get out there and enjoy them. And, if you happen to get in, say, an on-air debate, remember, that’s entertainment!

Any questions?


P.S. If you’d like professional help getting interviews with the media, we’ve been arranging interviews for our clients on radio and TV, and obtaining editorial coverage in newspapers and magazines for more than 26 years. We also offer a comprehensive social media marketing program for select clients, where we do it all for you. If you’re interested in our help, please call us at 727-443-7115 Ext. 231. We’d love to hear from you!

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