This post originally appeared in a slightly different version on
A recent article in the New York Times reminds us that we are living in a culture of coaching. There are coaches to clean out your closet, build your personal brand, firm your abs, get your child that dream internship…anything you could ever imagine.
Yet, when it comes to doing interviews, many people tend to feel they can wing it without the benefit of of a mentor or coach. Because it approximates the format of a conversation, it’s easy to view a media interview as a simple conversation. Don’t.
A journalist will have a particular objective in interviewing you, and it is most likely not what you had in mind. The journalist or blogger has a story to write. You, on the other hand, are there to promote yourself, your company or your brand. I don’t care how good a speaker you are or how knowledgeable you are about your business, you have to your best foot forward. Subtle business promotion is a learned skill that takes practice to make perfect. In our experience, people often talk too long in interviews. Being succinct, as any writer knows, is also a learned skill.
How do you ensure that your startup company's messages don't get lost during an interview? How can you avoid being railroaded or blindsided?
Here are 7 tips on how a startup -- or any B2B company for that matter -- can turn a media interview into a true opportunity for you:
1. Ask for information ahead of time. Many reporters, particularly those working for trade publications, will provide them in advance if you ask. If you can’t get the questions, do clarify the focus and purpose. Don’t go into an interview uninformed.
2. Determine what your core message is. What do you want to get across in the interview? How do you want to portray your company? You want to address both questions in an interview. Carve out some time in the beginning of an interview to explain your company’s vision. You can also add key points to any answer by doing what’s known as “bridging.” That’s an industry term referring to seamlessly transitioning to your key message with “bridging words.”
Here are a couple of examples of bridging: “And what’s key here,” "Let me put this in perspective," "What this all means is," "Before we continue, let me underscore."
3. Come prepared with a sound bite or two. Do you think the phrases that draw the most applause in a presidential debate are off the cuff? The better they are, the more likely they have been carefully prepared and rehearsed to perfection. So too in an interview. Work on a catchphrase that makes what you have to say more memorable.
4. Prepare backwards. What headline would you like the article to say? That can help you martial your points and organize your thoughts around a compelling, relevant message.
5. Practice, then practice some more. Do several mock interviews before the real one so you can demonstrate firm control of your subject matter and sound at ease, not rehearsed. Ironically, once you feel confident you can make the material your own and come across as polished and informed, not rehearsed.
6. Don’t be afraid to to not know the answerYou don’t have to know everything and you certainly don’t want to give false information. It is always better to be safe and say "I'm not sure, let me check and get back to you," rather than sorry.
7. Avoid using "no comment". It may look cool on TV but all a phrase like that does is send a signal to a media person that you might have something to hide. This is an example of why you need to be prepared for a media opportunity. If you had done your prep work, you would have an answer in your pocket for any sensitive questions they throw your way.
In our experience, you can never be prepared enough. That's why we're running a special Media Training Workshop. For details and to register, go to PRos media training.