Interview Tips Before, During and After

Before the Interview:

  • Do your homework
  • Anticipate tough questions – you know what they might be
  • Stay informed - think about how to link what you are doing to current trends or news
  • If possible, make contact with the reporter ahead of time – send information about your organization or program.
  • Know what the reporter is interested in – read stories they have written, watch for bylines
  • Provide “deep background” if necessary (institutional history)
  • Rehearse

During the interview:

  • Keep it local, but link local information/impact with national news.
  • Avoid acronyms and “institutional” jargon - the general public does not speak “our” language.
  • If it is radio, take notes as you go so you can remember to respond to things said.
  • Remember – with radio you are speaking to every listener – in waiting rooms, in living rooms, in kitchens and in cars.
  • Tell the story, over and over, but in different ways.
  • Never say “no comment”.
  • Imagine who the listening/reading audience is – speak to them.
  • If you are asked a question and you don’t know the answer, say so.
  • If you can, provide the interviewer and the listener resources to find the answer. If it is a print interview – tell them you will find the answer and get back to them prior to their deadline. And do.
  • Listen to your own voice – use conversational tones. Modulate.
  • Pause for effect – it makes people listen to what follows.
  • Be aware of “ums” and “ahs”, silence is better.
  • If it is electronic media, don’t fidget. It is distracting for an interviewer.
  • Nothing is ever “off the record”.
  • If you are asked a question that includes negative language - do not repeat it.
  • Personalize your response when you can – use examples of impact on real people.
  • Utilize restraint – short answers are better, safer and more effective. Use whole sentences.
  • If you don’t fully understand the question, ask for clarification.
  • Use facts to counter misperceptions or misstatements – don’t become impatient.
  • Remember you are the expert – that’s why they are talking to you!
  • Make the opportunity count!

After the Interview

  • Leave them with contact information and supporting data.
  • Write a handwritten, personal thank you note as soon as you get back to your office.
  • Let them know you are happy to serve as a resource in the future, even if it is just to lead them in the right direction on a related subject. Share the spotlight, don’t be a news-hog. You will be rewarded by being a resource in the future.
  • After the interview airs or is in print – write a note to tell them what a positive impact it had.  Again, use stories about people if possible.
  • Pay attention to the reporter/cultivate the relationship.

Thanks, in part, to Covering Kids, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

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