You’re being interviewed. But will you star in the story?
Every story needs a protagonist, a main character. The journalist will interview several people, but usually only one person — or one company — gets the starring role. Here are six tips to better your chances of being the star.
- Ask for the questions in advance.
If your interviewer isn’t from a paper of record like The New York Times (perhaps the interview is for a corporate publication) the journalist may be willing to send you the questions in advance. It never hurts to ask, and no one will be offended. And if you do get the questions, this gives you a huge advantage because you can…
2. …take time to prepare thoughtful answers.
People from the Nordic lands are not always easy to interview—one journalist friend likens it to having a conversation with a vending machine. Brevity is virtue, and sometimes it’s the soul of wit, but yes/no answers tend to be of little use to writers, unless you’re saying yes to having committed a murder.
3. Offer a sound bite or two.
Journalists are looking for something which is going to grab the reader. Rather than saying something is “really important,” say that it’s “the Holy Grail.” Does that go too far? Then go as far as you’re willing. Keep in mind that interview subjects who talk boring corporatespeak usually don’t get quoted if the journalist has a choice. So speak like a regular human instead of an office automaton.
4. Reply in writing.
If your English is weak, or if you suspect the journalist may misquote you, ask if you may answer questions in writing via email. Remember to be thorough and do it quickly since journalists work on deadlines. Make sure the journalist has received your answers and be available for follow-up questions.
5. Ask to review your quotes before publication.
Depending on the publication this may be very possible. It’s a chance for you to set the record straight if you feel you were misrepresented. Professional writers take copious notes, however, and many will record the conversation. So keep that in mind when asking for “corrections.”
6. Offer to supply photos and/or video.
Journalists are increasingly working with limited budgets. If you have photos or videos relevant to the story, feel free to offer them. Photo captions are the most-read elements of any story, so make sure everyone is clearly and accurately identified. You’ll also need to assure the journalist that you possess the rights and have authority to allow a publication to use the material (unlike the photo used in this blog post).
You can pay big bucks to be media trained, and it really is worth it. You’ll be whisked away to a hidden location where a journalist who works for a major international news organization will impart secrets of the trade. You’ll have to swear you were never there, that you never met the journalist, but it’s a worthwhile opportunity. (Give a shout if you want one organized.) But until that happens use the list above as a go-to guide.