How to Ace a Last-Minute Media Interview
There’s something about the last-minute interview request that has even the most seasoned spokespeople feeling a pinch of dread.
As a spokesperson, you may be torn: you see the opportunity to gain some quality exposure for your company, yet you haven’t had ample time to prepare.
Stop fretting. Instead, use any nervous energy as fuel to create a lightening-round version of your normal preparation protocol.
Here’s what you need to do to deliver your best interview yet, even if you have only 10 minutes to spare:
Set up a Time.
If a reporter calls on deadline, never jump right into the interview. Instead, ask them what they’d like to discuss, who else they’re speaking with and what they’re hoping their readers/viewers/listeners will learn from you. Then, tell them you’ll call them back, even if it’s just a few minutes later.
Do a Mini Audit.
With a last-minute interview, you don’t have time to do a full assessment of the media opportunity, outlet and reporter like you would in normal circumstances. But, at a minimum, skim the reporter’s last three articles and Twitter feed from the last week or so. You’re looking for two things: the sentiment of their latest coverage and any red flags that may suggest a rocky interview ahead. Get a pulse on the coverage style, if it’s been positive or critical, and how previously sources are portrayed.
Arm Yourself with the Latest Information.
Make sure you have all of the facts about the subject at hand prior to the interview. Not feeling confident that you have all of the facts or expertise? Find a subject-matter expert at your organization who can answer the reporter’s questions with ease.
Determine 2-3 Key Messages.
Write out a few concise messages that need to be delivered during the interview, and have them in front of you, if possible. Focus on finding a way to bridge to those messages as you answer each question. Another tip: reporters usually ask at the end of an interview if you have anything to add. Use that time to work in any messages that haven’t been covered.
Breathe, Then Begin.
Last-minute interviews are stressful, but it’s important for you to sound calm and confident. Do this by speaking slowly, taking a moment to pause before immediately answering a question, asking for clarification when needed and defaulting to your key messages.
During the interview, if a question is asked and you don’t have an answer, it’s O.K. to say you will find that information and get back to him or her ASAP. It’s far better to verify than to make a guess and do damage control later. Just don’t forget to follow up on your promise to deliver the information.
Be a Resource After the Interview.
End the interview with an offer to provide additional information should the reporter need it. As the interviewee, if you have details or assets such as photos or videos to support the reporter’s story, reach out and provide what you have. A reporter on deadline is likely scrambling – and will appreciate your offer to help the story better come together.
With the 24/7 news cycle, these I’m-on-deadline-right-now interview requests are becoming more of the exception rather than the rule.
The sources who will be quoted again and again will embrace the urgency of a reporter deadline. It may not be a perfect interview, but it will be one you will learn and grow from.
Then, the next time a reporter is on deadline gives you a ring, you’ll know how to stay calm and interview on.
Jennifer Lawhead is the Corporate Communication Manager at TTI Success Insights. With a dual background in journalism and marketing, Jennifer has a penchant for storytelling, especially about the PR industry, career growth, continuous learning and being a woman in business. Follow her on Twitter: @jenlawhead.
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