How to prepare for a press interview
How exciting! You got contacted for an interview, now what? Having been on both sides of this for various formats (magazine, online pub, blog, podcast, etc.) and as someone who likes to be prepared, I have some thoughts on the best ways to get ready for a press interview. This is written for the interviewee and to be more specific, the small business. Not the one who already has a PR agency.
These steps are mainly for live interviews, such as for a podcast or on a phone. If you’re doing a written interview, you can skip everything in the “during” part.
- Research: Ideally, this is before you even agree to the interview. Do a little research on the writer & publication. Have they written about the subject before? Are they affiliated with the publication? If they’re a freelancer, do they have clips on their website that you can look at?
- Press kit: Send before an interview or by request. If you don’t have a press kit, I wrote a 2-part series on what it is and what it should contain.
- Note some points: Write down some bullet points that you want to enforce/emphasize. This way, you won’t forget what you wanted to say.
- Ask for questions: I find this especially useful for podcast interviews. Asking for a basic list of questions helps you prepare your answers with accompanying facts.
- Ask for context: Usually, this is already part of the journalist’s initial question. They should be able to tell you what the article will generally be about. Is it a 1:1 interview? An opinion piece? A news story? A review?
- Get facts straight: As an interviewer, one of my first questions includes basic facts. Even if the name is posted everywhere, I always confirm the spelling of the business name and person’s name. Then, it’s a question about their position (i.e. owner, barista, co-founder) and their pronouns. If you’re one of those companies that uses cutesy titles like “Chief Happiness Officer,” may I recommend that you also offer a more relatable title like “Internal Communications Manager.” Psst: a press kit is helpful here!
- Focus on the question: Try not to go off into tangents. Think of your answer as you would write an essay: make your thesis statement and add on 2-3 supporting sentences.
- Learn what makes for a good quote: Not everything you say is quotable. That’s okay. Single, clear sentences are excellent. Other good quotes include statistics, opinions on industry trends, and analogies.
- Don’t repeat a negative question: Are you doing some crisis management? Repeating a question that is negative in nature turns it into a quote, even if that wasn’t your intention.
- Don’t go “off the record”: Unless you’re close friends with this person, “off the record” does not exist during an interview.
- Don’t make up an answer: I know, your ego might be a little bruised but you aren’t an expert on everything. If you don’t know the answer, say that. If you can give an answer but need to consult someone (for facts or approval, you don’t have to say), just say you’ll look into it and follow up once you get the answer.
- Schedule a to-do for yourself to check the publication for the article: If you have brand keyword alerts set up, it should also trigger a result.
- Do not ask for a draft: This gives off red flags and makes it sound like you’re telling them how to do their job. If you are worried about accuracy, send that press kit with the facts included. If you think you might get misquoted or taken out of context, you can ask to fact-check your quotes. These are usually sent with a bit of context. For example: On drinking coffee. “I drink one cup a day to keep the caffeine headache away. Even if I make a 10-min brew, I will still make myself drink it so I don’t waste any coffee.”
- Send in a correction: Is a fact wrong? It’s okay to send in a correction. Are you unhappy with the headline? Most of the time, the writers are not the ones who write the headlines. Please don’t take your anger out on them.
- Say thank you: If this was a positive interview experience and you’d like to foster the relationship with the writer, send a quick thank you. When you share the article on social media, take a moment to tag them in the post. A little goes a long way, I promise.