December Issue

Three-Minute Coach: How to Prepare for Media Interviews

Prepare your talking points and remember that everything you say in the presence of a reporter could be used in a story.

Before meeting with a reporter, you should prepare your talking points and remember that everything you say in the presence of a reporter could be used in a story. Here are three tips to avoid potential issues.

Always prepare not just how you'll explain the points you intend to make in the interview, but also how you'll illustrate them. There are three methods of illustration: citing a specific or hypothetical example, telling a relevant story, or a sharing a revealing data point. Some CIOs do a thorough job of lining up their theoretical and abstract talking points in advance but end up leaving the illustrative content to ad-libbing. This may result in the illustrations getting shortchanged, which could be a wasted opportunity since stories are often more memorable than facts.

Sometimes it's OK to mention another company by name during a media interview if your organization is in partnership with them or collaborating on a project or philanthropic initiative. Otherwise, stay away from talking about competitors or slamming them in any way in a media interview. If you say something critical about another company, it could overshadow the main narrative you want as the focus of the reporter's story.

Never kid yourself that a reporter is engaging you in casual conversation. From the moment you shake their hand to the moment you say goodbye, everything you say should be quotation-friendly. Chatting while you're walking a reporter to the coat closet is every bit as much a quote-gathering opportunity for them as the formal interview. In my reporting days, one of my goals was to have the tone and feel of my get-to-know-you chitchat carry over to my first interview question.

Bill McGowan is founder and CEO of Clarity Media Group, a two-time Emmy Award-winning correspondent and author of Pitch Perfect: How to Say It Right the First Time, Every Time.

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