Media interviews: Three things to avoid

Giving a media interview can be a daunting prospect for many. What happens if I dig a hole and can’t get myself out? What happens if I say something that damages my company or organisation? 

These are just two of many questions that may well go through your head ahead of speaking to a journalist. 

But your nerves and anxieties can be overcome with good planning and preparation. You may also want to think about getting some specialist media training.

Here are some of the key things you should avoid. 

Don’t say ‘yes’ without thinking

If you’re asked by a journalist for an interview, don’t feel like you have to say ‘yes’ – and straight away.

First, you need to find out more details about the request. Who is the interview with? What is the focus? What kind of questions will I be asked? These are some of the questions YOU should be asking.

You also need to consider what’s in it for your company or organisation. What do we have to say at this moment in time? How important is it? What will we achieve?

Once you’ve considered all these things, then you should decide whether the interview is the right thing to do or not. 

Don’t overload yourself

If you decide to go ahead with an interview, don’t overload yourself with loads and loads of data and information. It will only confuse you and the journalist won’t use it all anyway.

Most TV and radio reporters are only looking for a short soundbite, something up to 20 seconds or so.

Instead, think about the key two or three things that you want to get across and have some examples/evidence to back them up. Then keep re-working them during the interview. 

Don’t ignore the question!

If you think journalists will only ask you the questions you want to be asked, then you’re living in a fantasy land. 

Depending on the type of interview, and the subject, you could well be asked some tricky or curve-ball questions.

The worse thing you can say is ‘no comment,’ or ‘I’m not answering that.’ Why? Because it comes across as defensive and looks like you have something to hide. 

Instead, you should at least acknowledge the question you’re being asked and then move it back to what you went there to say. Otherwise, you probably find yourself in a ping-pong match with the journalist, who is unlikely to let the question rest.