How to prepare for an interview with a journalist

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If you’ve been reading our blog posts for a while and putting into practice all our advice (we hope!) you’ve hopefully managed to get some media’s attention. With that, the natural course is that soon enough you will need to start talking to journalists!

Yep! This is what you’ve been working for, so there’s no need to panic. Lay back and enjoy our quick guide on how to prepare for a journalist interview.

1. Research
First and foremost, if you’re meeting a journalist, research them! Search the publication they are writing for, their profiles on social media and check the latest articles they published. Stalk them, but don’t be creepy…

We recommend you read at least three of the journalist’s most recent articles, preferably ones that are related to your sector. The more you read, the better prepared you’ll be.

We also encourage you to find out more about what they regularly cover: is it specific or is it broad? Knowing more about their work will give you an idea of what they are interested in and that you make the most of each other’s time.

2. Review talking points
Ensure you are giving the journalist relevant and useful information, not only about yourself but also about your industry in general.

Unless the journalist was proactive and reached out to you directly or implied they want to specifically discuss your product or service when having a meeting with them we believe in the 90/10 rule.

It’s best to spend 90% of the time providing a journalist with information that can be useful to them so that you can build a great relationship, highlight your expertise and your network, and 10% providing information that is specifically focused on your business. A journalist will typically lead the conversation with questions, and those will give you more of an idea of how much your company or product is the focus.

It’s great practice to create and review your talking points beforehand. Making a list is a good way to make sure you cover all your basis and waste no time.

It also helps if you can come up with a list of questions you think are relevant to your business and prepare the answers in advance. Including the tricky ones!

3. Prep your demo or summary
Prepare for a quick demo of your product or a quick summary of your business that you can share with the journalist. Have a clear explanation and description of your product that is simple to understand - avoid the technical jargon unless meeting with a technical journalist. Having this memorized will make sure you aren’t wasting too much of your limited time.

More importantly, make sure everything is working! You want the demo to be slick and have no issues once you’re in front of a journalist.

4. The interview details
Don’t forget to get all of the agreed details of your interview, including where it will take place, the time and who will be present. You should also have a form of a contact, e.g an email address or a phone number, to ensure you are reachable and kept updated with any changes. And make sure a photo of you is available publicly so that you’re easier to spot if meeting in a public space.

Always be on time! First impressions are everything. Make sure your schedule can accommodate the interview, giving you enough time to prepare. We also highly recommend confirming the journalist's attendance for the meeting the day before and keeping their contact details to hand.

It’s not uncommon for interviews and meetings to fall through on the day, yes it can be irritating, but if a big news story breaks or something else outside of your control happens, always be understanding and get the meeting rescheduled ASAP.

5. On and Off Record
When in a meeting with a journalist, it is assumed that you will be on-record, meaning that the information you provide and the wording that you use can be published and attributed directly to you.

If you have sensitive information, or would like to share information without it being directly linked to you, specify to the journalist that you want it off-record. This means that the information you provide cannot be used in any print, in any form. However, journalists can treat this information as quotable but they won't attribute it directly to you.

If you just want to get to know each other, you can talk on background, but make sure that is accepted by both parties before you start. 

6. Follow Up
This last point is very important and sometimes overlooked. Having a meeting with a journalist is a great start but it doesn’t mean they are going to immediately write about you.

That is why it is important to send follow-ups and regular updates every now and again to build a relationship. Let them know you are available if they need to know more about you or your industry. Try to become the person they rely on for information, even if they don’t specifically write about you. And aim to be super responsive, the quicker you can answer an email, take a call or send over a comment, the more you will be used. If you take forever to reply, they will quickly stop coming to you for help.

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* This post was originally published in our newsletter The Communications Workshop. Sign up to get more free tips on communications and marketing here!