Toni Stubin 7/16/20 2:39 PM

Interview ahead? Check out the survival tips from our ex-journalist!

Before I joined a communications agency, I had worked as a journalist for more than a decade. On top of the writing itself, I truly enjoy interviewing all sorts of interesting and smart people throughout the years.

During the interview, it was easy to spot how differently people reacted to a situation where I inquired various things from them. Even the most experienced industry leaders could freeze in front of the reporter while others endured with a rockstar-like routine. 

For many, interviews can be quite unique experiences, something that rarely happens on a day-to-day basis. In an odd situation, people often have their guard up instead of being able to relax. We gathered a couple of tips to make interviews less nerve-wracking and help you get the best possible outcome, whether it's an article, podcast, or video.

Before the interview

Interviews are often booked in advance, so you know when it's going to happen. Being fully prepared is the most crucial thing, especially if it's a live interview, as you need to be able to react quickly. You still might want to gather your thoughts and key topics beforehand, even if the story is published later on.

Think about why they want to interview you. What do you want to say? Is your role more about giving a professional statement, or are they writing a feature story of you as a person? Make sure you have all the necessary facts and background information, so you know what to expect.

Interviews can be thought of as a service chain – the last link is the target audience, a reader, listener, or viewer of the story. It's the journalist's job to serve their audience by doing a piece that serves them in the best possible way. Your role as an interviewee is to serve the journalist and help them to achieve their goal. Journalists are not the extension of your organization's marketing department, and the point of view of their audiences will likely vary from yours.

During the interview

The most important tip is this: always be yourself. If you try to pretend something or someone else, it will show in the end result and not in a positive light. It's only natural to be nervous, and it's more than ok, but letting one's genuine personality shine will improve the story a lot.

Remember that you don't have to have an answer to everything, and you don't need to be an expert in every possible field. Part of the journalist's job is to ask relevant and fitting questions, but if you are unsure of something, you are free to say "I don't know" or "I'll check this and get back to you later." The worst thing you can do is to panic and make up some malarkey.

Just relax and don't forget that a journalist is only a person too. Even if the situation can feel weird or intimidating, trying to achieve a genuine interaction often leads to the best possible result.

After the interview

Phew, it's finally over! Now what? If it's a live interview, you can only hope for the best and ask a friendly face to tell you how it went. Or if you are someone with good nerves, you can watch or listen to the recording yourself – and maybe take notes for future interviews.

If it's a print or an online story, they usually let you see your quotes in advance (if they don't do that, don't forget to ask). You are only supposed to correct facts: if you said "red", the journalist can't write "yellow". Everything else, like wording, angles, and other choices are out of your reach, and this isn't the place where you should even try to add any marketing messages into the mix, no matter how hard your team wishes for it!

Be quick. The journalist has their deadlines, and they are probably very strict. Make this a priority and give your comments as fast as possible.

I hope these tips help! Enough practice and you'll master interviews eventually – they do get easier with experience after all.

Photo: Austin Distel, Unsplash

If you need any personal sparring or additional tips, don't hesitate to ask our experts. We have a vast experience in media training – now also fully online!