12 tips for tackling your first media interview

Apr 14, 2022
5 min

Landing your first media interview is no mean feat. Some journalists receive hundreds (if not thousands) of pitches a day, so when they decide they want to write about you, take a hot minute to celebrate!

However, whether you approached them or vice versa, getting them interested is only half the battle. You now need to give them a story worth writing about.

Preparation is key. Even those that spend a lot of time in the eyes of the media will take time to research before giving an interview.

How to prepare for your first media interview

1. Ask the right questions

First things first, ask about the piece. A journalist isn’t likely to give you the interview questions in advance, but there’s a small window before where you can ask a few questions of your own so you understand where they're coming from and their expectations.

Make sure to ask about:

  • The angle they’re approaching it from
  • The format of the interview
  • Anyone else they’ll be speaking to for the piece
  • How much time they need from you
  • The publishing date (make a note in your calendar and circle it in red ink!)

2. Read, watch or listen to the media outlet you're going to be featured in

Sounds obvious, right? But you'd be surprised how many people go into an interview without ever having read the outlet they’re about to feature in...

Understanding the publication provides invaluable insight into:

  • Its editorial slant
  • How much detail the interviewer is likely to go into
  • The interests of its readers

We always tell our clients to prep this way, because then you can prepare with information about your business that is going to be most relevant for the journalist.

The best tip (and we can't emphasise this enough) is if you’re being interviewed for a regular slot then read the previous articles. You'll get a good indication of the questions you’re likely to get asked.

3. Research the journalist

We're not telling you to go overboard buttering the journo up, but a thin spread wouldn't go amiss. Look at stories they’ve written recently and how they’ve covered specific industries or themes:

  • Are they pro or against certain issues?
  • Is there a specific theme running through their pieces?
  • Have they written about your industry before, and if so, how was it covered?

Journalists all have their own agenda and this will likely feed into their interview with you so it’s worth getting to know them through their writing. Make sure to follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn too, you might be able to find the name of their dog or favourite take away which will be handy when trying to form a relationship with them.

4. Write down your key messages

Now you’re familiar with the outlet and the journalist, start to write down a list of the things that you want to get across in the interview.

These should be things you want people to know about your business and offering, but there should be no more than five or six.

Importantly, they should be tailored towards the audience of the outlet, and the article the journalist is writing. There's no point talking about why you're the best consumer offering on the market in Leeds, if you're speaking to a B2B audience in Bristol.

5. Remember you're 'on the record'

Remember The Bill? Of course you do, so you know that anything you do say may be given in evidence.

No really, anything you say to a journalist can be published. So, as a general rule of thumb, don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to appear in capitals on the front page. Stick to the facts and don’t speculate, and definitely don’t criticise competitors...

In fact, don’t talk about them at all, this is your interview!

6. Build a rapport with the journalist

When the interview starts, use this opportunity to build a rapport with the journalist. How, you ask?

  • Be friendly
  • Thank them for their time and the opportunity
  • Mention something they’ve written that you liked
  • Throughout the interview, be helpful and answer the questions, offering to share additional detail with them that will help their story
  • Follow them on social media

7. You don't have to know everything

If a question comes up during the interview that you don’t know the answer to, the best thing is to avoid making it up on the spot and hoping for the best. It rarely works.

It’s fine to let them know that you want to fact check something and will send the correct information after the interview.

8. Nurture your relationship

Building a rapport is all in the aftercare, so treat the interview like a first date.

Even if you haven’t promised to send any additional information, follow up with the journalist once the interview is done. Thank them for their time and to check they have everything they need, whether its images, stats or facts. If the journalist does request anything, share it with them as soon as you can as they will likely be on a deadline.

9. Wait for the article, broadcast, podcast to go live

Now it’s just a waiting game.

If the journalist gave you a publication date, don’t chase them before then. If that date comes and goes, send a polite email to check they have everything they need and ask when it will be going live.

Remember though, for most journalists the publication date is usually out of their control, so be patient.

10. Share the coverage

When the piece comes out, read it thoroughly to check for factual inaccuracies. Assuming there are none and it’s a positive and accurate reflection of your interview, shout about it! Share it on social media, with your team and customers, and don’t forget to thank the journalist to let them know how much you like it.

11. Check for errors

If there is a factual inaccuracy, for example the spelling of a name or an incorrect date, politely let the journalist know and ask if they can update the article with the correct information.

Accuracy is super important for journalists too, so this should never be a problem. Remember though, not liking the piece or headline is not a factual inaccuracy.

12. Stay in touch

Journalists move around a lot as they climb the ranks...

While they might be at a smaller trade or industry publication now, many move on to national and mainstream publications to focus their specialisms.

  • Stay in touch with them
  • Follow them on social media and engage with their posts
  • Read their articles and message them about anything you like or have an opinion on. It will help them remember you for anything they’re writing in the future.

And voila! You're now equipped to smash your first media interview. Good luck!

Need media training? 

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