Prepping for your print interview
Most of the time, we’re
the ones conducting the interviews — but don’t be caught off guard if you end
up on the other end of the discussion one day. Here’s how to prepare yourself —
or your association CEO — for a print interview.
By Marsha Friedman
Getting media exposure for your association and the industry it
serves can mean putting yourself out there. It might be chatting live on the
air with a radio talk show host, taping an appearance for TV, or being interviewed
by a print journalist.Some people enjoy print because they have more time to ponder their answers. But
it makes others (me included) nervous. I worry about how the reporter will
interpret my responses, and how they'll be sliced, diced, and repackaged for an
article. However, there are things you can do to ensure your print interview goes well, that
the reporter understands you, and you get your association or industry’s message
across. Here are five tips:
Do not pitch, sell, or promote your association’s products or events. Yes, it
may be the reason you're granting interviews, but if you want to sell
something, buy an ad. The journalists are looking to you as someone with a
particular expertise who can provide content for their readers. You may be
adding another voice to a story with multiple viewpoints or sharing your
personal or professional story. Either way, the goal of the journalist is to
write an article that's useful, informative, and entertaining. Your goal is to
get media exposure for your organization and to be recognized for your expertise
in front of thousands of eyes.
Speak clearly and at a moderate
pace. Whether the reporter is taking notes with a pen or a computer, it
will be difficult for him or her to keep up if you get excited and start
talking very quickly. Not only might he miss some of the brilliant things you
have to say, but also he might misquote you in the story. Speak at a
conversational speed, and if you really want to be a big help, offer to spell
any less-than-obvious names you toss out. A good reporter will double-check spellings,
but you'll save her time by giving a starting point.
You don't have to answer
immediately, and you don't have to answer every question. Most of
us would find it hard to respond off the top of our heads to: "What was
the most pivotal moment of your life?" If you can't, don't. Ask the
reporter to give you some time to think about it. By the same token, if you
don't feel qualified to answer a question, it's far better to be honest about
that than to take a stab at a response that makes you sound, um, unqualified.
Remember, you're in control. No one will think less of you if you politely
decline a question for which you have no answer.
Take your own notes before the
interview. You likely have a good idea of what the reporter is writing about
— and if you don't, it's perfectly acceptable to ask. That gives you time to
prepare relevant comments or look up statistics or research.
If they're looking for tips, list a few on paper in case you draw a blank. That
will also help you plan ahead so you can speak concisely and get to the point
quickly. Personal anecdotes always add color and interest to a story. Think
about whether you've got a good short one that will illustrate your point.
Be prepared to email a
high-resolution photo of yourself. Print publications cannot use the
low-resolution photos that look so sharp online; the files are too small to
reproduce at any decent size on paper. Most require an image that is 300 dpi
(dots per inch). Keep one of yourself at the ready to send via email as soon as
the interview is over. Not having it — or not knowing what a high-resolution
photo is — could mean a missed opportunity to get your name, face, and
organization in front of a big audience.
Sound easy? You're right, it is. So relax and enjoy your
Before you know it, a Google search of your name will
produce dozens of publications quoting you and mentioning your association and
the industry it serves. That may lead to even more requests, all of which build
your personal profile, your association’s brand, and your audience.
Marsha Friedman is the founder of the pay-for-performance public relations firm EMS