Preparing for Your Media Interview: 7 Tips

So, after doing extensive work in the background, you’ve successfully marketed yourself to the media, and now a television or radio station is interested in interviewing you…congratulations! It’s up to you give the best possible interview you can.

We advise our clients to “own the experience” and really knock the ball out of the park whenever they do an interview. The better you do, the more likely you’ll be asked back for subsequent appearances. In this day of instant information sharing, great performances often get bicycled around on the internet to other media producers, who are much more apt to extend an interview invitation to you if you do a terrific job. And, you’ll be proud to use that interview clip for your own self promotion purposes on your website and in social networking.

1.    Write down the three to five main points you want to cover, and look for opportunities to work them in whenever possible to the fabric of your interview conversation. Memorize those talking points, and especially on television, don’t refer to your note cards.

2.    Include short stories and/or humor to help you make your important points. This will help you to come across as more approachable and down-to-earth. Tailor your humor and the length of your short stories to the particular media outlet’s target audience. Are they younger or older? Conservative or liberal? Urban or rural?

3.    Anticipate the questions interviewers are likely to ask and prepare answers that include your main points. Study the host’s prior interviews to find their favorite questions, approaches and interview style (soft, friendly, confrontational) so you’ll know what to expect and how to respond in most instances.

4.    Keep your answers simple and short. Complex, lengthy answers tend to bore and oftentimes confuse audiences. Also, research has shown that a lengthy cadence of just one voice, even if it’s yours, will tend to facilitate audience tuneout.

5.    Your job is to make the interviewer look good, while getting your main points across. Don’t try to upstage or belittle the interviewer, no matter how silly or off-the-wall their questions may sound to you. You are a guest on their program, and as such, should act accordingly.

6.    Practice your interviewee skills by having friends or family members pretend they’re the interviewer and question you as if you’re being interviewed live. Practice both telephone and in person interviews to prepare for radio interviews. Work with a stopwatch, so that you can get used to tailoring your answers to fit within the allotted length of your media appearance. The less time on air you have, the more crucial it is to hit those short sound byte type answers. The longer the interview, the more important it is to continue to revisit the main talking points/themes you need to cover (including in most cases your contact information). That’s because there is a constant coming-and-going phenomenon in electronic media. Many viewers and listeners will miss part of your interview, and if they come in late, you want to make sure they know who you are, what you’re talking about and how to get in touch with you.

7.    When you practice, videotape and audiotape yourself to observe and critique your performance. Be conscious of your posture, facial expressions and gestures for in person interviews, and your articulation, speech rate, fluency and inflection for radio phone interviews.

Before You Go Live: An Aircheck Demo Critique

An Actual Aircheck Demo Critique

An Allen Media Strategies client recently received a thorough critique from our office of an on- air audition demo; this client will then use these notes to improve their on-air presentation. We’ve edited our critique and presented the universally relevant notes below as a general checklist to improve your performance before you go on the air:

  • You need to increase the pacing of your delivery by at least two steps to captivate the listener; a down-tempo delivery will make you sound bored…and the listener will be bored as well.
  • Add some passion to your delivery; be somewhat evangelical in your presentation; think of the SportsCenter hosts on ESPN…they’re passionate about sports and that enthusiasm jumps out in their delivery. Aggressively ‘court’ your listeners.
  • Come up with one unique, compelling topic and get right into it. All your talking points should support that one theme. Make it something that’s unique and compelling to the stations target listener…and you’ll get extra points for something topical/newsworthy and “of the moment”.
  • Be careful not to make your on-air presentation sound like an infomercial for yourself; Your on-air time should instead show you as a catalyst to stimulate listeners by acting as a presenter of interesting entertainment and information. You then direct them to your website or toll-free phone number and sell them there.
  • Be sure not to sound like you’re reading. Think ‘Spontaneous Preparation’. In other words, know what you’re going to say, but make it sound like it’s off the top of your head.
Radio Marketing Tool
If you plan to do media appearances that target radio, you’ll need efficient ways of contacting stations to try to secure bookings. One company that can assist you is The Radio Mall. They can provide electronic databases of stations, peel and stick mailing labels for stations, email and fax marketing services to stations and more.

Take a look at

Media and Marketing Weekend Workshop
Several AMS clients have expressed interest in a reasonably priced, intensive weekend workshop/seminar here in the Media Capitol of the World, Washington, DC. The event would include actual radio and TV in-studio, on-camera and telephone interview experience, professional photo shoots, press kit assembly, tours of top media facilities, strategies on how to land, and then maximize interviews and other hands-on learn by doing.

If this is something that you’d like more information on, please let us know at

The Right “Call to Action” Gets Buyers to Buy!

One of the most important elements of your web site is the “call to action.” Your site may have a compelling headline that grabs your visitors’ attention. It may have well-written salescopy, great graphics, awesome navigation, fantastic testimonials, and an unbelievable opt-in offer.
But all these things aren’t going to mean squat if you don’t include a clear call to action!

Take a moment to consider the purpose of your web site. What is it you want people to do when they visit your site? Find out about the benefits of your product? Sign up to receive your free newsletter? Make a purchase, perhaps?

Now ask yourself: Does your site tell your visitors exactly how to do these things?

Your visitors need to know what you want them TO DO. If you don’t tell them to purchase your product or subscribe to your free newsletter, how can you be sure they’re going to take that action?

Be explicit about the actions you want your visitors to take. Your straightforwardness will have a direct impact on your sales!

Just in case it’s been a while since you brushed up on your marketing lingo, a call to action is a strongly worded suggestion that clearly states what action you want your visitors to take. It encourages people to take that action and tells them what will happen if they do.

For example, the following phrases are all calls to action:

  • “Click here to subscribe!”
  • “Join our affiliate program.”
  • “Add to your shopping cart.”
  • “Order now to take advantage of this limited-time offer!”

It’s a good idea to include an emotionally appealing benefit in your call to action. This convinces visitors of the value!

PR Lessons from the Real West Wing

We recently had the privilege of getting a behind-the-scenes tour of The White House in Washington DC from a friend with the Department of Homeland Security.
We were pleased to find several valuable lessons for radio there, including:

• The President’s Secret Service detail. We were surprised at how young, great looking and very personable they were. They were also very knowledgeable and answered our questions in a friendly, thorough manner. Can you say the same about your street team and promotions people? They’re the face that most often interacts with your listeners.

• The Secret Service agent who was standing guard over the Oval Office told us that the president is never, ever late for anything; he sticks to a very strict, planned agenda everyday so that he doesn’t keep others waiting. And, he tries to take as many meetings in his office as possible, so as not to eat up his time with travel. How are your Presidential time management skills?

• Inside the “Situation Room,” where major issues of national security are hammered out, any miscommunication could cause horrible consequences. So, every person attending has a microphone above their chair, and all meetings are recorded and videotaped to insure there are no errors in plan execution.

• When President Clinton was in office, he created a special area inside the gates of the White House lawn to make it easier for the press to file their reports. Do you make it easy for the local media to cover your station’s big events?

• Generally speaking, the White House was quite a bit less hectic and much more orderly on the day we visited than one would see on a typical “West Wing” episode. While everyone was no doubt very busy, they were very much on task, working from an agenda and wasted little time.

No matter which party is in office, the White House itself tends to run like a relatively well-oiled machine. When your radio station does the same, you’ll be amazed at how much more time you’ll have to concentrate on creating unique, compelling entertainment for your listeners.

Positioning Yourself: It’s Not Just a Statement!

We always advise our clients who want to Become Semi-Famous to seek a unique, compelling position in the marketplace. Positions exist in the minds of the audience, not in the taglines of your advertising.

It was Al Ries & Jack Trout who many years ago who proclaimed the importance of owning a word in the prospect’s mind. I think Reis and Trout are marketing geniuses, but under their theory, what is the “word” owned by Apple? Or Amazon? Or Samsung, Yahoo, Goldman Sachs, Caterpillar, Canon, or Motorola? None of these brands “own a word”…yet all are rising stars in Interbrand’s 2004 ranking of Top Global Brands by dollar value. How do you explain this?

Here’s the common mistake: We confuse TRYING to position with HAVING a unique, compelling position. We confuse a positioning STATEMENT with having an actual position. What we say in interviews and on the air may not be the same as what’s in the listener, viewer or reader’s mind. You need to be congruent with your position and your message and the consumer’s expectation and understanding of your message and position.

Unless media consumers view you differently from others in your field of expertise (your competition) you do NOT have a position, no matter what fancy words you use.

John Zagula, co-author of the forthcoming book “The Marketing Playbook” has a handy shortcut called “Positioning XYZ’s”. Fill in the blanks: “We are the only X that solves Y problem in Z unique way,” where X is the category you are in, Y is the unmet need of your target audience, and Z is the differentiation, advantage, or key positive distinction you have over your competition. Examine what you do…can you fill the XYZ’s?

If not, what modification can you do to your image or product to enhance it’s market viability?

A radio station owning the phrase “10 in a row” doesn’t mean that station owns the “Most Music” image. The same is true for you; owning a word or phrase is meaningless unless you own a unique and compelling audience expectation. The very mention of your name or your program should create a distinct and desirable image which listeners want to affiliate with.

That’s what a position is…whether or not you have a “line” or “own a word or phrase.”

To your success!