Media Tips

Media Tips: Preparing for an Interview

  • Prepare two to three key points or messages that you would like to make. In other words, if there were only a couple of takeaways for your listeners, what would those points be? Write them down as this will helps you to remember. You can always come back to these main points if you get stuck.

  • Which brings this up. Prepare to answer: what’s the number one point that you’d like audiences to take away?

  • Consider everything on the record, even when the mic isn’t “on.”

  • Answer in complete sentences when you can.

  • Remember, you can answer the question you want to answer. One technique is to say something along the lines of, “That’s a great question. And it brings up what I believe is really the important piece here to consider here… [key point]."

  • In general, it’s more effective to state your points in the positive. For example, rather than saying, “We’re not at all anxious that x will be a problem,” a stronger way to phrase this would be: “We’re confident that we will overcome x by y.” However, there are exceptions to this rule, particularly when one of your key points has to do with ruling out a common misperception.

  • If you need clarification on a question, don’t be afraid to ask.

  • Rather than say, “I’m not an expert in political science, so I can’t answer that question,” it is more effective to say: “While I’d defer to my political science colleagues on the political particulars, what I can tell you as an economist is…” And go back to a key point!

  • On the other hand, it’s okay if you simply don’t know the answer to a question – or prefer not to answer. Try not to feel pressured! One way to handle this is to pivot. There are a few ways to do this:

    •  Acknowledge that it’s a great question, that the question needs to be further explored, and offer recommendations on what you would like to see investigated.

    • If a reporter is asking you to “guess the future,” or to answer a question that you’re not ready to tackle, one tactic is to say, “I can’t [speculate on/predict] x, but I can tell you that [what really matters/the question we should consider is] is [key point here].

  • It’s common for even the most seasoned media personalities to use filler words (e.g. “um,” “like,” “you know”), so don’t worry too much about this! One way to help break this natural habit is to let yourself pause quietly as you think through to your next point, which will happen more smoothly if you’ve written down and spoken your key points aloud a few times before the interview (muscle memory helps!).

  • Have fun! Typically the best interviews happen when both the interviewer and interviewee are equally engaged in the conversation. While you must always remember that everything is on the record, it is very possible – and rewarding – to have an authentic conversation that can bring about new understandings, share knowledge, and shed light on what’s important.

For Radio Interviews

  • With a radio interview in studio, you can have one sheet in front of you with key points. But rifling through papers will be heard on the mic. You can also use an iPad but try not to look down at it too often, as it will change your voice.

For Televised Interviews

  • Before recording begins and you're on air, ask the producer to confirm whether you should look at the interviewer or look at the camera.

  • Avoid wearing white, all black, and patterns (especially stripes).

  • Avoid wearing large jewelry.

  • A light dusting of translucent powder on your face can help to reduce shine from camera lights.