Prepare for a Media Interview

One successful outcome of a press release or other media contact is a request for an interview. Interview situations include talking with a reporter on the phone, meeting with magazine writer for a feature story, or conducting a taped or live radio or television interview. Following are a few tactics to help prepare you for media interviews:

  1. Practice Key Points – Before the interview, list key points to convey. Practice making each point verbally in just a few sentences. Consider the information the audience will find of greatest interest to them. Anticipate possible questions and think of appropriate answers to them.

  2. Keep Information Handy – Keep the list of key points, notes, statistics, reports, and other information needed during an interview organized and within easy reach. Since both print and radio interviews are often conducted by telephone, it is a good idea to keep materials by the phone.

  3. Become Familiar with the Situation – If possible, monitor newspapers, radio shows, and TV programs for which interviews are scheduled.

  4. Study the Interviewer’s Style – To gain a better understanding of the types of questions that will be asked, read the interviewer's column or listen to their broadcast for several days prior to your interview. When monitoring a telephone call-in show, listen to the questions and assess the audience in terms of age, education, and interests.

  5. Give Insight into the Profession – Media interviews are excellent opportunities to provide the public with eye-opening information about the profession of family and consumer sciences. Think of clear, concise ways the topic can be used to educate the public about how the field benefits individuals, families, communities, and society. Remember to be subtle yet clear. Reporters and interviewers do not appreciate a hard-sell approach.

  6. Help Raise AAFCS Visibility – Show how the topic relates to an AAFCS position, project or activity. If appropriate, emphasize the topic’s significance by discussing how it relates to one of AAFCS priority issues: aging, changing social values, diverse families, and investment in youth. For current information on AAFCS priority issues visit the AAFCS Strategic Plan, current program of work and recent resolutions passed by the AAFCS Senate. The person interviewed should mention not only their job title and place of work, but also membership in AAFCS and any offices held in the Association.

  7. Provide Quotable Information – While it is important to state points briefly, make sure enough information is provided to help the audience and provide reporters with quotes. For TV or radio interviews, practice talking in sound bites; 15 second remarks that concisely state your point. One technique to make statements more “quotable” for print reporters is to turn the interviewer’s question into part of the answer. For example, consider how to respond to the question, “How can we reduce the number of crimes committed by juveniles?” Rather than say, “By providing more after-school programs,” the answer could be, “We can reduce the number of crimes by juveniles by providing more after-school programs.” This gives the reporter a full sentence he or she can later quote in an article.

  8. Support Points with Facts – Reinforce points with facts, statistics, and even anecdotes if they can be delivered well, concisely, and focused.

  9. Ask for Clarification – If the question is unclear, ask for clarification or restatement of the question. This is one way to avoid being misquoted.

  10. Never Make “Off the Record” Remarks – Do not attempt to speak off the record. There is no guarantee a reporter will honor your request.

Additional considerations for radio and television (TV) interviews include the following:

  • Before participating in a radio or television interview, verbalize (on tape, if possible) the key points. Listen for problems such as a monotone delivery, overly rehearsed statements, or too many “ums” in the speech. Practice so that these problems are corrected. 

  • Find out in advance whether the interview will be conducted individually or as part of a group.

  • If a radio reporter calls to prerecord a comment on a subject, do not hesitate to ask for five minutes to review the notes on the topic and get back to the person. This will provide a chance to compose a concise 20-second answer that is less likely to be edited on tape than a longer answer. Ask to talk with the interviewer by phone or in person before the broadcast to become acquainted, discuss key points that should be covered, and learn the operating procedure.

  • Ascertain what types of visuals can be used at TV stations.

  • Provide interviewers with a brief biography in advance. 

  • For television, avoid wearing clothing that is mostly white or black, which can affect how the camera adjusts for lighting. Also, refrain from wearing stripes or patterns that will “shimmer” on camera. Limit jewelry to uncomplicated pieces that do not rattle.

  • Arrive at the station early, and bring the list of key points to the interview so that they can be reviewed while waiting to go on the air. 

  • For radio have notes during the interview—just make sure they are on paper or index cards that will not make noise during the broadcast. While on the air, be careful not to interrupt the interviewer.

  • For television, look at the host when talking; do not look into the camera or watch the monitors. Try to end interviews with upbeat advice to leave a positive impression.