How to get your message across in a media interview.
People who have done media interviews often tell us during our media training courses that they’ve been surprised by how speedy the interview process is.“I was only on for a few minutes and then they said, ‘Thanks very much,’ and it was over,” one course participant told us after she’d appeared on the BBC News channel.
Even though press interviews tend to be longer than those on radio and TV, they’re still over very quickly – and often before the interviewee feels that they’ve managed to say what they want to say. In our media interview training we’re frequently asked: How do you get your message across during a media interview?
The short answer is to give the journalist your ideal headline right at the start. What’s the one thing that you want them to take away with them? Given that all media trainers at Communicate Media are working journalists, we know that life is so much easier for reporters if they’re interviewing someone who knows what they want to say. If that message is relevant to the subject matter of the report, then that’s even better.
Your interview should have been arranged by your press office or PR company but even then, it’s often a good idea just to check with the journalist about the subject matter and to confirm what it is that they want from you before you start doing the interview. You can then take the initiative and put your message across during your first answer.
How do you know what your message is? Well, that’s where preparation comes in. We provide those on our media training courses with the tools and techniques to prepare their messages.
There’s a tendency at the moment for radio interview guests to start with, “Hi, how are you?” when they’re introduced. It’s friendly and conversational, which is what we want for a good radio interview but it wastes time and you’ll never hear the presenter say: “Oh, I’m fine, thanks for asking.” They know that time is short, and they want to cut to the chase – and so it helps if you do the same.
In print, radio and TV interviews, whatever the first question Is, move quickly from answering it to the point you want to make. Phrases such as:
- “But what’s most interesting here is…”
- “But what clients are telling us at the moment is…”
- “The big issue in this sector at the moment is…”
These phrases help you to quickly and efficiently move the focus from the initial introduction to your main point. Journalists will respond to any of these phrases because we want to know what’s happening right now and what our audience will want to know.
Once you’ve introduced your key message, you can then repeat it a couple of times. Repetition is sometimes avoided and people often ask us on our media training courses, “How do I avoid sounding monotonous and repetitive?”. The answer is that you introduce a different example, case study or story each time to support that key message.
The briefest interview format is the radio or TV soundbite. This is the clip that will be used and included in a “package” or report. Here you have to give your message straight away.
Soundbites are about 10 to 15 seconds long meaning, there’s no time to waste. They’re the essence of your message and that’s why we tend to leave them to the end of our media interview training sessions so that people have time to really think about what it is they want to say, to define and distil their key message.
Our media training courses are conducted both online and in person. We want to expand on these ideas and provide participants with practical experience of press, radio and TV interviews with working journalists and media trainers.
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