The media interview. Does it make you queasy just thinking about it?

Making time and making a point appears easy —  if you’re, say, Mayor David Miller, although he’s faced his share of tough questions. But what about the rest of us who don’t face cameras daily?

For busy entrepreneurs the prospect of an interview with a journalist — while potentially valuable in the marketplace of buzz — can be met with equal proportions anticipation and dread. The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way.

A group of MaRS clients should be somewhat less daunted after a pair of half-day media training sessions, presented by public relations consultancy Hill & Knowlton. Veteran tech communicators David Chin and Janice Foreman ran through the basics, screened some quality interviews for the audience (both masterful and painful) and subjected our start-up CEOs to an on-camera product launch interview and critique. The tips and tricks were flying fast. Among them:

  • Consider the big picture: What are the business trends, angles or broader contextual landscape for your company?
  • Prepare: Find out who will be asking the questions. Google the reporter or watch a clip of the show online. Know the reporter’s target audience and speak to it. Brainstorm some of the questions you’re likely to be asked and craft the key messages that you want to deliver. This is your interview, take the time to make it work for you.
  • Show as well as tell: For each core message, offer a brief proof point and illustrate where you can with a colorful, pithy quote.
  • Trigger words: Don’t memorize tracts of text or you’ll sound wooden and inauthentic. Identify trigger words to help internalize your messages. Communicate in your own voice – not that of a PR agency.
  • ABC: Acknowledge (the question). Bridge (back to your subject). Communicate (your message). And don’t say “No comment” — unless you’d like to appear guilty of a crime.
  • Be yourself: If you’re an animated speaker, don’t sit on your hands. If you tend toward reticence, however, think about amping it up a little.
  • Practice, practice, practice. According to Chin, former BMO CEO (and masterful interviewee) Matthew Barrett would call in his comms staff in for a quick mock media interview whenever he had a few minutes to spare in his day.

Easier said than done? Maybe so. But it certainly gets better the more you do it.

So. Interesting examples. Simple explanations. Distinctive imagery. You’ve got yourself a killer interview.

Now just practice, practice, practice.

Linda Quattrin

Linda Quattrin was a newspaper reporter and editor before applying her interest in science as communications director at Robarts Research Institute. A member of the Canadian Science Writers Association, she was responsible for media relations and corporate communications at MaRS. See more…