Media Training 101: Tips for a Successful Interview

Authors, especially new authors, often ask what they need to do in interviews. While there are many resources available for professional media training, there are some basics you should know before working with reporters.

In her book, Publicize Your Book, Jacqueline Deval shares these simple rules:

  • Know your book’s content – reread the book if you need to.

  • Know the top three messages that you want to convey.

  • Practice your bridging techniques so that you can redirect an interview that goes astray.

  • Prepare anecdotes and facts that illustrate your points.

  • Rehearse your interview responses until they feel natural and comfortable.

To this, I’d like to add a few essential pointers:

1. Mention Your Book: Please, please, whatever you do, don’t forget to mention your book! I can’t tell you how devastating it is to an author (and a publicist) when a great interview comes to an end and you realize you never mentioned your book. While you hope the interviewer will mention it, they might not. Be prepared to casually work it into the conversation, for example, you could say, “As I talked about in TITLE OF MY BOOK, there are three things you can do to ______.”

2. Be Prepared for an Unprepared Interviewer: Accept the fact that the interviewer may not have read your book and may have no clue what you do. Even though your publicist sent your book along with a full press kit, the host didn’t read it and is only going off of the suggested interview questions -- a prepared list of questions that your publicist sends in advance exactly for this reason. Not all interviewers have the time or the desire to read your book prior to an interview. It’s up to you to make sure your work is presented properly, at least as best you can, given the constraints, and you can do so by offering information and references to your book so listeners know where to find more.

3. Practice Your Elevator Pitch: Your ‘elevator pitch’ is a 1-2 line description of your book that could be said in the time it takes an elevator to go from floor to floor. When someone asks you what your book is about, this is your standard, sound bite reply that you know so well it just rolls off the tongue without hesitation.

Practice some other sound bites, too. Things you can say in response to the most basic questions about your book. Actually record yourself saying them and play back the video/audio so you know what you look and sound like.

Here are some further tips on how to have a successful interview*:

Get Organized

Taking time to research the interview topic and media outlet is essential. Having a clear understanding of what the reporter may ask, as well as, understanding their target audience and publication is important. It’s also crucial to understand the topic that will be discussed and anticipate key questions. This will not only help the interviewee feel more confident, it will also help the reporter appreciate the expertise.

Ask Questions

Before jumping in and answering the questions, it’s important to understand what background the reporter has and what information they are hoping to get out of the interview.

Know Your Facts

No matter what information is given during the interview, always make sure its accurate, and if the you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay. Let the reporter know that you will get the information to them after the interview, and then follow up quickly with the information.

Take Your Time

Staying calm and not rushing is key to a great interview. Taking time to explain details so the reporter understands what an interviewee is saying is important.

* Source: Ripley PR

If all else fails and you can’t remember a single thing, just relax, take a few seconds to compose yourself, and be confident. Lastly, did I mention, DON’T FORGET TO MENTION YOUR BOOK?!

Carina Sammartino is President and Founder of Parallel 33 Public Relations & Literary Services. Find her at

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