If you've been media trained and aced your media interviews, congratulations. For those who are new to media interviews, never been media trained or crashed an interview; these tips are for you. Picture yourself in a TV studio being interviewed by a seasoned journalist.
- You don't understand the anchor's question. Or, a producer is inadvertently talking to you via your IFB (earpiece) while the talent is asking you a question. What do you do to buy yourself time and make sure your answer aligns with your talking points? Ask the Anchor to rephrase the question. You could say, "I want to be clear on what you're asking. Could you rephrase the question?" In the case of the interrupting producer, you could state, "Someone was talking in my ear, and I didn't hear your complete question. Could you repeat it?"
- A taped report setting up your interview contains incorrect information, or the anchor's live introduction to you gets it wrong. What do you do? Start by thanking the reporter or anchor for having you on. Then as politely as possible say, "I need to correct(or clarify) something that was just said..."
- You were told that you would be interviewed by John but up pops someone else to interview you live. If you've been paying attention to the newscast prior to your section, you should be able to identify the new person and acknowledge them by name. It's also a good idea to check out the media outlet's website and photos of their reporters and anchors before your interview. You come off more personable when you use their name. But if you aren't really sure who's interviewing you, it's better to skip it all together than to guess and call the person by the wrong name.
- What if your interviewer gets your name wrong? Don't be afraid to correct them. Just don't come off like you are annoyed, even if you are. Typically the journalist will be apologetic and a bit embarrassed.
- Hopefully it won't happen to you, but what if your interviewer asks you a totally inappropriate question? I'm not talking about a tough question, but something so off the mark that it feels very wrong to you. First, keep your cool. Then you could respond, "I find that question inappropriate. I'm happy to answer questions about XYZ, but that one feels personal (or totally off topic)."
No one can predict precisely what will happen during a media interview. But if you have worked through enough scenarios in mock interview training, you shouldn't be thrown. Remember it's all about staying on your messaging. That takes preparation.