Like when Toronto Mayor Rob Ford ran away from reporters during a media scrum. Which led to a parody on Saturday Night Live, ridicule on the Daily Show, and a very weird interview on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Now there’s even a cracked-theme video game about him.
Follow these tips for dealing with the media and you’ll come off as polished, knowledgeable and in control.
- Ask the reporter about the story– what’s the goal of the interview?
- Review the reporter’s stories.
- Study the outlet she writes for – who is the audience? (There’s a big difference between being interviewed for the book section of the New York Times versus an interview with a community paper.)
- Know your subject area
- Does the topic of your book relate to an issue that is currently in the news? For example, if your book were about famous whistleblowers you’d want to be up-to-date on the news about Edward Snowden.
- Who else is writing books about the same topic? How is their book similar or different from yours?
- Limit yourself to three key speaking points
- What do you want people to know?
- Unnecessary information complicates the story.
- Stick to your message (or you’ll end up saying things you shouldn’t).
- 10 hard questions: 10 succinct, plain-language answers
- Anticipate the 10 most difficult questions and prepare your answers
- Create answers that reinforce your three key points
- Use plain language
- Know the Three Things You Should Never Say – and Don’t Say Them
- Never ask to “go off the record.” Everything you say from the start of the interview until the reporter has left the building is fodder for her story.
- Never say “no comment.” Instead, expect difficult questions and prepare answers that make you shine.
- Never answer a question when you don’t know the answer. Say “I don’t know,” and then offer to refer the reporter to someone who does.
- Practice makes perfect
- Memorize your key speaking points until they flow freely.
- Have background information available
- Information about your book – what it’s about, reviews, news clippings, your headshot, photos the reporter can use in her story.
- Your business card – including your website URL and social media channels.
- The best way to contact you for follow-up .
- Match your dress to your venue
- If the interview is on your home turf, then dress accordingly (business casual is usually appropriate for authors).
- For interviews at the TV or radio station, it’s better to dress up than down.
- No matter what the venue, look neat and professional.
- Clear your head before the interview – go for a little walk or have a snack (but don’t eat anything smelly).
- Lay off the coffee before your interview. Caffeine is anxiety inducing and can make you seem too chatty.
Interviews that went horribly wrong