Journalists are often faced with unique challenges. They are constantly on the hunt for good quotes, story ideas, etc. However, what happens when the tables turn and the journalist is the one being interviewed?
Leah Ingram offered great advice on “Media Training for Writers” at this year’s ASJA Conference. Here are five key takeaways to help journalists prepare for media questions where they are the interviewee instead of the interviewer:
1. Learn your message.
If you’re going to be on TV to promote a book or blog, you need to learn your message. Make it as short as you want it to be. You can say the same thing in every interview and no one will call you out on it. Preparing sound bites and writing things down can help you remember your message. Pneumonic devices (e.g., special acronyms) will also help you stay on message.
Knowing how long the interview will last is just as important. Try to find out this type of information before your on-camera interview. During your interview, first answer key message points. And, most importantly, always include a call to action! For example, Ingram says, “I can answer questions over on my blog, SuddenlyFrugal.com.”
2. Build your confidence.
This is more than just preparing for interviews. This means building your confidence as a speaker and learning how to harness your energy. The more talks you give, the better you become. Practice makes perfect, and the more you talk, the more comfortable you will get. Building your confidence is about creating your message and making it easy to roll off your tongue.
3. Speak clearly.
Avoid jargon – people understand clear, concise speaking. Pause rather than using filler words (e.g., “um,” “like” and “you know”). Pausing makes you sound more thoughtful and natural. Toastmasters International classes can help with this. Also, be sure to smile when you talk. To suppress nervous tics, you can try holding a rubber band. Moreover, if you do a pre-interview, never say, “like I said earlier.”
4. Present yourself professionally.
Men: Dress well or better than the people interviewing you but be sure to dress comfortably. If possible, have someone apply a natural makeup on your face. Avoid crazy patterns when you dress up.
Women: Dress professionally, clean and properly. Dress in bright solid colors for tops. Wear a suit jacket you love and fits you well. When you feel good in an outfit, you tend to act more confident. Also, from Ingram’s experience, pants are better than dresses/skirts.
5. Always take control.
Never accentuate the negative. Learn the art of the bridge: take questions and bridge them to where you want it to be. For example, when asked a question, you can change direction by saying, “What’s important is…” or “The real issue here is…” or “Let me get back to you…” or “What I can talk to you about is…”
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Melissa Ibarra is an online community services specialist at ProfNet, a service that connects journalists with expert sources. In the past, she has worked for CBS Sports and News 12 NJ and done freelance reporting for New Jersey News Room and Reel Reporting. She specializes in social media, graphic design, and video production. Follow her media journey @melibarraTV.