The media landscape is ever-changing, which is why it’s important to implement updated strategies that will keep you connected to your audience. One of the best ways to do so is through regular media interviews. Not only do they provide a platform to share your message, but they also help put a human connection to your institution, particularly if you’re the Dean or a key spokesperson.
Media interviews are a great way to share your message while building credibility and authority. With interviews, you might not be directly promoting your MBA programme or another key offering, but you are offering insight and value into who you are and what you do.
However, you have to be extra careful when answering questions in a media interview because the journalist will usually take only a paragraph or sentence, or even half of a sentence, from your answers for the final story. And you don’t want that quote to be taken out of context or make you look ill-informed and insensitive.
In this article, I’m going to outline a few proven tips and strategies on how to perfectly answer questions in a media interview.
1. Can I say ‘I don’t know’?
Media interviews can be pressurised events with concerns to appear confident and knowledgeable. You may not know the answer to a particular question, or you might just have a moment where you can’t recall the right response. It’s important to practice how you are going to behave if this happens and give yourself confidence in any interview situation.
You should try to avoid saying that you don’t know the answer, it’s an especially bad strategy when it’s overused. Although once is unlikely affect the perception of your expertise and it’s a more honest approach than simply trying to waffle your way through an answer. It also allows you to go back to your PR team or do some research to get a definitive answer for the journalist. You could suggest the journalist speaks to a well-placed colleague, or follow up via email with further information that you didn’t have to hand at the time of the interview.
2. Practice, practice, practice.
In order to avoid stumbles, practice is key. Interacting with media can cause stress if you don’t know what you’re doing. Practicing in mock interviews before the real deal familiarises you with the procedure of being interviewed, giving you the confidence to present yourself the way you want to on the phone or in front of a microphone.
Preparation is key and will help you feel more at ease when speaking. This is an opportunity to share your vision and generate a positive impression of your institution. But if you head into an interview unclear on how you want to convey your messaging, the pressure will likely feel even higher because you’ll have to think quickly on your feet when responding to the interviewer’s questions.
3. Hit three key messages in your answers
The best way to increase the chances of getting your desired messages in the final story is to hit on your key messages in every single answer. But how can you do that in the right way?
The key is to not do it in a memorised way. Don’t say it word for word the same or in the same order. Rather, mix it up and thematically hit the same three points – we suggest that’s an ideal number to remember and emphasise. It means that you can use different words, different levels of abstraction, and different examples but deliver the same messages while still sounding natural and conversational.
And remember that you don’t have to give concise answers. Your goal is to get the messages you want in the final story, so be detailed about them without waffling.
4. Always move towards your message points
In an interview, if the journalist asks you irrelevant or tough questions, you don’t have to dig deep and answer the questions in detail, and you don’t have to ignore them either.
Just answer briefly, acknowledge the question if you wish, and then bridge the conversation to your message points. Move to your first message point, then to your second message point, and then your final message point. Remember your messages should be interesting to you and your audience.
To conclude, it is better to accept that you will be unable to answer some questions. The key is to keep this down to a minimum by doing the right preparation before the interview. As well as the key tips and tricks, media training can and should be a part of every leader’s toolkit. Not only can this help you to understand journalists and their world, but media training also provides insight into what to expect and how to interact while helping to build confidence.
Having studied business at Hull University Business School in the UK and San Diego State University, California State University in the US, Kate’s insider knowledge means that she really understands the inner workings of a business school. She knows the challenges they face and how effective PR and well-crafted content can make the difference to their brand, student recruitment, alumni engagement and sharing research in a way that makes a genuine difference – used by governments, corporate leaders and key decision-makers.