How to Prepare for a Media Interview

Have you been asked for an interview and are not quite sure what to expect? Here's how to best prepare for your next radio, TV, or podcast interview.  

Lisa B. Marshall,
February 1, 2016

One of my favorite things to do as a communications expert is to interview people who I think make a difference. As many of you know, I even have a page on my Smart Talk website dedicated to my media interviews. In addition, I sometimes interview people for my QDT episodes. Most recently, I interviewed Matt Abrahams, author of Speaking Up without Freaking Out

But I also enjoy being interviewed, because it gives me a chance to get my own message out. I’ve been interviewed many, many times, (over 50 times for my book alone), and having been on both sides of the interview process, I’ve learned what it takes to make a great interview happen: preparation. And I don’t mean just on the part of the interviewer. If you’re going to be interviewed, take the reins. This will ensure that your message comes out loud and clear. 

There are a couple documents you should create in order to make the interviewing process easier for the interviewer and more valuable for you. 

Creating a Q&A 

The key for preparing for any sort of media interview is preparation. In fact, the difference between doomed and eloquent is preparation!  You know your message. At least you should know what you want to get across to the audience. So take the time to prepare your talking points. The most effective method is to create your own list of questions along with the main points of each response. 

Though some interviewers prefer to make up their own questions, I’ve been asked for a question list so often that I created a page on my website to send to people: lisabmarshall.com/questions. Notice I don't include the responses on list for the interviewer, but I did develop responses for each question. In my "interview" notes, I not only highlight the main ideas I want to communicate, I also have one or two stories ready for each point. If there is time, I prefer to pepper my interviews with stories along with the main ideas. By the way, I have this information stored in three ways: a set of index cards, a set of Evernote notes (so I can search quickly during a radio interview), and standard document so I can use the same messaging for other marketing channels. It's also important to note that when you deliver your key ideas, you need to know the style of the interviewer and their audience. If it's a fast pace, tip-oriented show, keep is short and sweet. If it's a conversational, longer form program, then you can adopt a more casual style and generously sprinkle in stories. 

Your goal for any interview is to communicate the points you want to communicate in a manner that will resonate with the audience and the interviewer. You need to remain in control—that's why you need to prepare so that you can effectively respond to just about any question with the points you want to make. It takes some practice and it does get easier the more interviews you do.    

Additional Helpful Materials 

Interviewers also often like to have bio material, so I have that on my website, too. It’s handy to offer the bio at different lengths, as you can see: lisabmarshall.com/bio. You can even make up a summary or list of important ideas you want to convey. This can sometimes guide the interviewer to ask questions around the points you want to make. Photos of you (and your book, if you’re an author) are also typically sent. 

Again, some interviewers prefer to make up their own questions, and that’s fine. I often do that for my Smart Talk interviews. But check with the interviewer and offer to send these documents. Most of the time they are happily accepted. They save the interviewer a great deal of time (even if they don't use your questions) and often help you get your desired messages communicated.

What to Expect During the Interview  

I have found that the best interviews (both as interviewer and interviewee) are when the interviewer uses some interviewee suggested questions as a starting point, modifies others, and then creates a few unique ones. As the interviewer, if you can ask something that is pertinent and hasn't been asked before, then you'll make a positive impression on the interviewee—plus, it makes the interview more interesting for the interviewee (and you are providing a service to the listeners since you have unearthed something new for the interviewee to share). 

Again, as the interviewee, it's great to show your appreciation for a thoughtful, unique question. You'll want to respond with a genuine compliment to the interviewer, then continue with your prepared points and stories. Of course,  don't be afraid to share a spontaneous story that supports your main points. Again, your goal is to make the interviewer comfortable with you and to stay on target no matter what you get asked.

Finally, many podcast interviewers also make a transcript or show notes, so by sending your materials ahead of time, you may also be making it easier for the interviewer.  So if you have been invited to interview, don't hesitate to offer some or all of these documents. You’ll have a really valuable and fun experience, benefit your business or cause, and guarantee a really enjoyable interview. 

This is Lisa B. Marshall helping you to lead and influence.  If you'd like to learn more about compelling communication, I invite you to read my bestselling books, Smart Talk and Ace Your Interview and listen to my other podcast, Smart Talk. As always, your success is my business

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