Tips for Giving a Successful Media Interview

By: Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

I am very grateful to my longtime friend and colleague, Albert Imperato, for sharing his time and expertise with me in connection with today’s blog post. Albert is a veteran of the public relations industry and Founding Partner of 21C Media Group, Inc. Most of the answer to the question below was formulated on the basis of a recent conversation with him.

Dear Edna:

I have enjoyed reading your blog and have noticed that there is a topic that you don’t seem to have addressed yet. It concerns interviews. I am a violinist in my early 30’s and am fortunate to have management; however, my manager hasn’t given me much guidance as to how to handle the interviews that sometimes precede my concerts. On some occasions, I have felt that I was too outspoken in an interview, or that I should have just talked less. Do you have some useful tips for me? —R.L.

Dear R.L.,

Thanks very much for your excellent question. Here are some guidelines that I hope you will find helpful in improving both the experience and the outcome of your interviews:

1) Know the exact nature of your interview. Will it be for radio, television, Internet or print? Will it be live or taped? Will it be for a profile of you or will your interview be one of several? If it is for a print publication, is the reader likely to be musically sophisticated or would they be considered more mainstream? This will help you in your preparation.

2) Make sure you know up front how much time the interviewer wants or you are prepared to give them. It will help you prioritize what you want to say. Review the allotted time with the interviewer at the start of the interview and try to keep track of it so that you don’t begin to ramble. In general, it is advisable to be as concise as possible, without sacrificing enthusiasm and warmth that might make the interview more meaningful.

3) Practice for the interview in advance with your manager, publicist (if you have one) or a trusted colleague. Prepare answers to any delicate questions you might anticipate. If you are doing a telephone interview, it might be wise to have bullet points in front of you to remind yourself of important things you want to say. Do not allow the interviewer to goad you into saying something you don’t want to say. Stick to your prepared answer and always remain respectful.

4) Bear in mind that you can introduce information even if you weren’t asked about it. For example, at a logical moment, you can say: By the way, I’m not sure if you were told that I have a new album out. When it comes to talking about future engagements, be careful not to divulge information that has not yet been released to the public by the presenter.

5) If you are asked a question that you don’t understand, ask for clarification. If you don’t know an answer, it’s better to say that you don’t know, than to speculate. If it’s not a live interview, you can offer to get back to the interviewer with an answer. It’s useful to take notes of key things you say during an interview (for future reference) if it doesn’t distract you too much.

6) If you are doing an in person live interview, try to arrive early so as to get comfortable with your surroundings. Arriving early also allows you to relax your body, clear your mind of any distractions, and summon up all of your positive energy.

7) Remember that there is no such thing as “off the record”, even if the interviewer agrees to it. Everything you say could be printed.

8) Try to avoid making negative comments because you can never know in what context they will appear. A joke may look different in print from what you intended. Keep a respectful tone and only say things you would feel comfortable having people read. Avoid controversial topics, such as politics.

9) Be wary of moments of silence. Many of us are tempted to speak in order to reduce the awkwardness at such times, but we are more likely to be off guard and say something we didn’t adequately think through.

10) Remember that you wouldn’t be doing the interview if your remarks weren’t expected to be newsworthy and enlightening. This should always be a source of confidence to you.

I asked Albert Imperato whether it’s possible to ask to see the questions in advance. He said that most writers prefer not to do this. They don’t want to compromise the spontaneity of the interview. It might be possible for a publicist to get a general sense of the thrust of an interview, especially if it will be live and on camera. In some instances, with print interviews, artists have been known to ask for the questions in advance and have given responses by e-mail, but this is more generally accepted in the case of performers who are universally acknowledged as having very busy schedules.

I hope these points prove helpful to you. Becoming adept at interviews is an art. You will undoubtedly learn from each one and before long, you will be able to teach others how to excel in them!

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2012

Note: This is the final “Ask Edna” column of 2012. I wish all our readers a very happy holiday season and look forward to reconnecting with you on January 3, 2013!

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