Being interviewed? Fabulous! Grab these pointers for getting the most out of the experience.
Looking forward to an interview with a print, TV or radio journalist can be as nerve-racking an experience as it is exciting and potentially significant for your business. I've been in the interviewer's seat for an estimated 1,200 or more articles that I’ve written as a reporter, and I've also been on the other side of the table as a source contributing to numerous print and broadcast pieces for others.
On the job, I’ve even met a handful of potential expert sources who declined interviews because they’d had what they perceived as a bad experience with a reporter in the past. Most believed that they’d been misquoted; others had simply had unrealistic expectations about the length or impact of their contribution. Certainly any professional journalist with integrity aims to always be accurate with quotes, input, facts and other details. But we’re all human, and mistakes get made. If you’re nervous about being interviewed for a print piece and therefore you’re inclined to decline, I advise that it’s worth getting over this.
Whatever you anticipate, whether you’re excited or nervous about contributing to an article or broadcast segment, heed these tips to position yourself for a good experience:
- Get clarity about the nature of the article or broadcast segment and how significant a portion of the piece will feature your input. For instance, the nature of the piece might be what people who are having a custom home built should know about energy-saving building materials and appliances that, if used, can save them big bucks on running the home month after month. For this piece, the journalist may be interviewing two builders -- of of them you, and the other your competitor -- and the owner of a well-established local building supplies company that carries the latest in energy-efficient materials. In another case, the nature of the article or segment might pertain to a particular cause, concept or mission that’s signature to your organization, and you may be the sole interviewee. It’s important that you understand the topic of the article or segment and your role as a contributor. This will help you to prepare and to manage your expectations.
- If you have enough advance notice, prepare for the interview. Read more about how to do that in this recent article.
- During the interview, if it's for a print piece, simply speak clearly and somewhat slowly, giving you enough time to think about your input and giving the reporter enough time and clarity to accurately write what you’re saying. It doesn’t matter if it takes you five minutes to say what you have to say; it’s still only going to take readers 10 seconds to read it after the reporter has written it. If it's a TV or radio interview, speak at a natural pace -- not too quickly, as some people do when they're nervous, and not too slowly. The article mentioned in point #2 addresses this as well.
- Ask the reporter if you may tape the phone or in-person interview. Having your interview on tape allows you to review your communication skills and assess your strengths, weaknesses and how you can improve. Bits of the interview material can be used in your blog and to inspire your own articles and other original content, but you must wait until after the original article has published so you don't inadvertently pre-publish anything that appears there. If it's a live broadcast segment, be sure to have two people tape it for you (if one recording doesn't take, you'll have a backup)!
- Don’t tell the photographers that I told you this, but . . .
It’s sometimes possible to secure professional photos from the interview’s photographer for your own use — say, for your website, to accompany an article of your own, etc. This is typically not allowed when dealing with a publication’s staff photographers because they’re paid a salary and the images they shoot belong to the publication, regardless of whether or not they’re ever published. Freelance photographers, however, often have more freedom. They sell the photo or photos that the editor chooses to the publication, and the surplus belongs to the photographer. While no photographer can sell you the same image that the publication has purchased, a freelance photographer may be able and willing to sell or give you any number of those that are not purchased for publication. This is a much more cost-effective way to get professional photos than hiring a photographer yourself for a shoot. It doesn’t hurt to ask, but again, be respectful. Some photographers are receptive to this and others may not be. Remember that staff photographers typically don’t have this option.
- Be sure to thank those involved in helping you tell your story. This may mean a reporter or host, a camera person and maybe an editor or producer.