5 Tips for Making the Most of It
Getting media exposure means putting yourself out there. It might be chatting live on the air with a radio talk show host, taping an appearance for TV, coming up with posts for social media, or being interviewed by a print journalist.
The first couple times can make you apprehensive, but trust me, that disappears quickly. You realize the interviewers tend to ask the same questions, so there are few surprises. You figure out your best sound bites and the responses that get a nice chuckle, and you polish those up.
But, there are still those first couple of interviews to get through. To address this problem with my clients, I have them coached by my staff beforehand. As many of us have had careers in the media we know what to expect and, more important, what the interviewer expects.
When it comes to coaching clients for print interviews, that job goes to our Creative Director and Writer, Penny Carnathan, who has worked as an editor and reporter at major daily newspapers for more than 30 years.
Having logged thousands of interviews, Penny knows what makes a great one great. And, by the same token, what makes an interview a flop. I asked her to share her five best tips for not bombing your first time out – and for making sure at least some of what you say gets published.
Here’s what she gave me.
- Do NOT try to pitch, sell or promote your book, product or business: Yes, it may be the reason you’re granting interviews, but if you want to sell something, you should buy an ad. The journalists are looking for you, as someone with a particular expertise, to provide content for their readers. That may be adding another voice to a story with multiple viewpoints. Or it may even be sharing your story – how you reinvented yourself after being laid off, or how you managed to write a novel while raising 13 kids. Either way, the goal of the journalist is to write an article that’s useful, informative and/or entertaining. Your goal is to get media exposure: your name and the source of your expertise in front of thousands, perhaps millions, of eyes.
- Try to speak clearly and at a moderate pace: Whether the reporter is taking notes with a pen or a computer, it will be difficult for him or her to keep up if you get excited and start talking very quickly. Not only might he miss some of the brilliant things you have to say, he may (gulp!) make an error that becomes a misquote in the story. Speak at a conversational speed, and if you really want to be a big help, offer to spell any less-than-obvious names you toss out. A good reporter will double-check the spelling, but you’ll save her time by giving her a starting point.
- You don’t have to answer immediately, and you don’t have to answer every question: Most of us would be hard put to respond off the top of our heads to, “What was the most pivotal moment of your life?” If you can’t, don’t. Ask the reporter to give you some time to think about it. By the same token, if you don’t feel qualified to answer a question, it’s far better to be honest about that than to take a stab at a response that makes you sound, um, unqualified. Remember, you’re in control. No one will think less of you if you politely decline a question for which you have no answer!
- Take your own notes before the interview: You likely have a good idea of what the reporter is writing about – and if you don’t it’s perfectly acceptable to ask what the gist of the story is. That gives you time to prepare relevant comments. If they’re looking for tips, list a few on paper in case you draw a blank. That will also help you plan ahead so you can speak concisely and get to the point quickly. Personal anecdotes always add color and interest to a story. Think about whether you’ve got a good short one (short is appreciated!) that will illustrate your point.
- Be prepared to email a high-resolution photo of yourself: Print publications cannot use the low-resolution photos that look so sharp online; the files are too small to reproduce at any decent size on paper. Most require an image that’s 300 dpi (dots per inch). Keep one of yourself at the ready to send via email, if the reporter asks, as soon as the interview is over. Not having it – or not knowing what a high-resolution photo is – could mean a missed opportunity to get your name, book title and face in front of a big audience.
Sound easy? You’re right, it is. So relax and enjoy your interview. Before you know it, a Google search of your name will produce dozens of publications quoting you and mentioning your book, product or business. That may lead to even more requests, all of which builds your profile and your audience.