How to Nail an Interview With a Reporter

First of all, congratulations! If you were invited to an interview, it’s very flattering and exciting, especially if it’s your first time. Any interview requires a lot of work before the meeting, during and after it. Only if you do it right it will become a cover story you’d be happy to share on your Twitter.

You need to establish a trusting relationship with a journalist and be sociable and open to inspire the readers. But it’s also important to control what you are talking about and what specific words you’re using to make the right impression. If you have already had a meeting, there is a high chance that the interview will be published but your performance could still affect the final outcome.

How to Prepare

Select the right media

To begin with, you have to figure out what media publishers might be interested in you or your business. For instance, if Forbes was to publish your interview, there is a low chance that in a while Inc or Business Insider, the closest competitors of Forbes, will also be motivated to meet with you to talk about the same things. Know exactly what media is key for you and what your target audience consumes.

You need to learn more about the format of the publication, watch the stories or read several interviews that have already been published, study the target audience, and evaluate which businessman the publication is more willing to interview.

Also, it’s important to find out how the interview will be conducted: whether there will be a TV shoot, a conversation in person, a dialogue on the phone, Zoom, a photo shoot etc.

Learn all about the interviewer

Study what a particular journalist writes about and conducts interviews:

  • what topics they discuss with guests;
  • what questions you should expect;
  • If they has a blitz questionnaire or any other special techniques;
  • what kind of interview format they prefer: aggressive or friendly, uses provocative techniques or not, sets traps or not, interrupts or lets a guest finish to the end.

However, reporters rarely focus exclusively on interviews. They usually write texts of different formats. Explore them all, in which section they are published, what topics they cover, whose opinions they refer to.

Besides, the bio and the Twitter profile of the journalist can help you complete the picture. Knowing the background of a person, you can draw conclusions about what views they hold on a particular topic.

Think through the content of the interview

Specify all the possible topics – this will help you prepare for the interview efficiently. Usually you cannot foresee all questions, but the main vectors will allow you to prepare, collect the necessary facts and data that you could use in a discussion. The better you prepare, the less likely you will look lost or. Of course, the journalist may deviate from the set course, but you can always try to turn the interview in the right direction.

And through the interview questions

I believe that it’s better to ask a list of topics or even questions they want to discuss. However, there is almost no chance that you will receive it. Even if you get it, you cannot be sure that it’s the only questions the journalist will ask.

During the interview, the journalist may ask about something that was not discussed in advance, to pose some specific questions that better reveals the identity of the speaker. Therefore, you need to think in advance about everything a journalist can put in an interview and how you should respond to that. 

How to Conduct the Interview

Sometimes even open and talkative people become nervous when the camera or recorder turns on. Therefore, if the interview will be recorded, and you have little experience – practice is necessary. 

First, if you don’t get a list of questions, come up with basic questions about yourself, your company, business goals, market in general, your customers, competitors, contributors etc. And prepare capacious, honest and beautiful answers. These facts need to be known and you should be able to recall it quickly. Include all possible questions, including the most negative ones. That way you’d look confident no matter what you talk about.

Secondly, there are several common pieces of advice how to behave during the meeting:

  • Your speech should be loud and clear enough, without filler words.
  • You should know in advance what the conversation will be about, but never learn your answers by heart. Such speech sounds artificial and even forced.
  • Use the facts. If you are not sure about some information, please, don’t say everything you bear in mind. A professional journalist will check all the facts and your reputation can be damaged.
  • Avoid "nervous" movements. You should not fix your hair every minute, pull your tie, click the cap of the pen, etc. Such movements immediately attract attention, and the expert himself or herself looks weak and shady.
  • If a journalist asks a question that you don't know the answer to, provide the most info you have or at least your opinion on the topic and suggest to get back to them with additional details later. 

What to do After

A good move is to send the journalist a fact sheet about your company and/or product with all the key figures so they wouldn’t have to dig that from the recording themselves. That’s the best way to ensure they have all the info with the right numbers. 

Unfortunately, there could be a situation when a journalist publishes an interview with some mistakes or distorted facts. First of all,  you should feel the difference between an obvious mistake and a journalist’s opinion. Of course, it’s impossible to force an author to change his or her mind about your meeting or your company in general —  so, if that’s their  opinion there’s nothing you can do by this point. That is why it’s so important to find the right journalist who has a deep expertise in your field and develop your story and your pitch in advance.

If it was a factual mistake, you should realize if it was your fault or a journalist's one. In both cases you should reach out and politely ask to correct it in a written text if possible but don’t feel entitled to that. 

More interviews you have, the easier and more effective they would be. So, in a while evaluate this tutorial with fresh eyes. You will see what can be corrected and improved and the next interview will be better than the previous one.