How to prepare for a challenging interview

Some interviews can be a walk in the park. The journalist will ask only positive questions or get you to essentially repeat what you’ve already been quoted as saying in a media release. In others, a journalist may have an agenda, and sometimes you’ll be asked for an interview during a tough time, such as when your company is facing a crisis. These interviews can be difficult, and it can be easy to slip up, damaging your public image.

According to the public relations team at Adoni Media, preparation is key to a successful media interview, including knowing your brand’s message and familiarising yourself with the reporter and their media outlet.

Do your research before the interview

Before doing anything else, you should do your research on the reporter and their background to pick up on their style and tone.

The reporter will be doing their research on you and your brand, so it’s expected you’ll do the same. Watch their previous interviews or read their articles to understand the types of questions they like to ask or their preferred way of interviewing.

A business journalist is bound to ask you different questions than a consumer television news crew, for example.

Prepare your key messages

Rather than getting lost in the interview and forgetting the key message you want to get across, prepare your messages beforehand.

Sticking to three or four key messages is ideal as the audience is likely to remember these takeaways. It’s also important to reinforce these key messages in your responses and if needed, steer the conversation back using verbal bridges. These are small phrases you can use to ensure you return to your key message. Examples include: “what I can tell you is”, “our research shows” and “what I think you’re asking is”.

Don’t repeat negative comments

A common mistake made by interviewees is repeating part of a question when answering, especially questions which contain negative language.

If you answer a question with negative language, it could potentially turn into a negative headline. Instead, answer a question by saying something positive, particularly about how you and your company intend to address a situation, or ignore the word completely and consider the theme of the question, not the specific language used. Once you identify that theme, consider which of your key messages relates to that.

Stay updated with current industry news

Check the news the day of your interview to ensure you’re up-to-date. If there’s breaking news around the time of your interview, it’s likely the reporter will ask you to comment on what’s occurring.

It can be very helpful to plan a strategy for how you want your company to be positioned in relation to that news.