How to prepare for journalist interviews – our tips


12th May 2020


Leigh-Ann Hewer

Reading time

6 minutes

Microphone on desk

Speaking to a journalist, especially for the first time, can be a bit daunting. Often we become all too aware of being recorded and of the significance that’s attached to each word. It’s easy to get flustered if you don’t fully understand the question or don’t feel like you have the perfect answer lined up. Talking it through with a PR agency or even a colleague in advance can really help.

Today we wanted to share with you some of our best tips for preparing for a journalist interview so that you can go into a meeting, on a phone call or, increasingly, on a video call with positivity and confidence.

Prep beforehand

The most important thing in developing your confidence going into an interview with a journalist is that you feel prepared. If you can, ask if it’s possible to see the kind of questions or areas the journalist would like to cover in advance. They may or may not want to share and these might not give you all the detail (many prefer off the cuff answers and discussion) but even some information will help.

You can also think of the kind of questions you might be asked so you can prep some answers, as well as refreshing your memory on any information such as reports or research you’ll need to know. It’s often helpful to write out some key bullet points that can sit in front you as a support.

Think about your key messages

This is important. It’s great to be interviewed but it’s also important to land some of your key messages during the interview. What do you want to work in there that would help your business and would be useful to say to the particular sector the publication focuses in?

It can be helpful to think of three key points that you can visualise as a triangle in your mind, but even one point about your expertise that would be good to come out is helpful. You should write it/them down and have it in front of you for reference.

Have a good look at the publication

You may feel you know what they cover, but be sure to have a good look at the publication your interview is going into so you can get a feel for what they cover. This way you can ensure what you have to say is relevant, and think of your responses in light of its tone.

Have a look at the journalist’s recent work

Having a look at the journalists most recent work can help massively. You’ll get to know their voice and style, what topics interest them, and it can also provide you with reference points for conversation. You can compare and contrast, as well as getting a feel for the dialogue. Twitter is useful here as well as a Google news search.

During the interview, listen carefully and give yourself time

Even though talking to a journalist might make you feel slightly under pressure, there really is no hurry. It’s important to remember that you are providing value in what you are able to offer. Take your time and don’t feel the need to rush your responses. Allow yourself to think things through as you would in any other conversation.

Everything you say is ‘on the record’

During the interview, the journalist will write down or record everything you say. Remember, anything they capture could be used for the interview so if you don’t want to see your words in print, it’s best not to say it in the first place. Unless you know them really well, treat everything you say as ‘on the record’.

If you want to share additional information that you’re keen not to attach to you, don’t do it during the interview. Instead, discuss it with your PR consultant or PR agency as there might be another way to share it.

Journalists often leave pauses – don’t be tempted to try and fill them

Journalists aren’t trying to catch you out when they leave pauses after answers. Often people fill in the gaps and then say things they hadn’t prepared which leads to more interesting content – which is obviously what they’re after. So feel free to leave silences and let the journalist lead.

Admit what you don’t know

If you’re asked a statistic or figure that you don’t know and don’t have written down, feel free to say “good question – I’ll need to check that out. Can I email you back afterwards?” Don’t feel on the spot or you may make a mistake. It’s OK not to know everything immediately. If it’s really not something you can answer you can always say “that’s not really my area of expertise.”

Difficult questions

The bridging technique is very important in dealing with difficult questions. For example, you could say something like: “That’s a really interesting question – but I think the key point is…” This will help you move on to something you’d like to highlight and can direct the conversation away from topics you might find difficult to cover. Remember, they are after interesting content, not trying to trip you up at every turn.

And finally

“One more thing” – it’s often the final question that trips people up. The formal interview seems to be over and before you say goodbye, the journalist asks an extra question that might catch you off-guard. Remember, the interview isn’t actually over until you say goodbye and hang up or leave the room. Be aware of the last question.

If you can bear these tips in mind during your interview with a journalist, you have little to fear. Often our anxieties are just in our heads. Entering anything with a level of preparedness makes a world of difference to our confidence so relax, give yourself time to prepare, and enjoy.

If you’d like some helping landing an interview with a journalist feel free to contact us here, and we can discuss how Carnsight Communications might be able to help.