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.

Here are some basic rules:

  • Know your book’s content – it's been a while since you wrote it, but you should know what's in it. Reread it if you have to, and know that anything in the book is on the table for questioning in an interview.

  • Plan out the top 3-5 messages that you want to convey. Practice them.

  • Plan out some techniques that will allow you to redirect an interview that goes astray. A journalist may ask something you are not really wanting to talk about. You can carefully turn the conversation around by saying something like "That's a really great question -- I will have to think about that a little more, but in the meantime I can tell you ..." and transition to a topic you do want to discuss.

  • Prepare real-life anecdotes and facts that illustrate your points. People are better able to connect to real world examples - success stories of clients/patients you've helped. It helps them envision their own issues and feel like you're talking directly to them.

  • Practice, Practice, Practice. On video, 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: 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. Hopefully, the interviewer will mention it, but they might not. Be prepared to casually work it into the conversation, for example, you could say, “When I was researching for my book, TITLE OF MY BOOK, I found there were three main things women do to ______.”

2. Be Prepared for an Unprepared Interviewer: Accept the fact that the interviewer may not have read your book and may not have a solid understanding of 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 using the suggested interview questions -- a prepared list of questions that your publicist sent in advance exactly for this reason. Not all interviewers have the time 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 (in a non-promotional way) so listeners know where they can find more information.

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 playback 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 you (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 of Parallel 33 Public Relations. Find her at www.parallel33pr.com.

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