About To Be Interviewed? Don't Panic! Here's How To Prepare to Maximize Your Message
File Under: Getting Media Attention & PR
So, all your hard work has paid off and someone from the press contacted you to do an interview. Congrats! Now, don't wing it. This is an opportunity for you to get as much out of the coverage as you can. This means you'll want to control the message. But unlike marketing, with an interview, you don't have a direct say in the message they ultimately write. What you can control are the words you say in the interview and the material you give them. Here's how to prepare so you can maximize exposure.
Your goal for any interview is to give the interviewer what they're looking for while influencing them to cover points you want to publicize about you and your music. The ability to handle interviews well is an art, especially since they happen in real-time, but you can prep for an interview like you practice for a show. Having a good set of talking points, sound bites, and stories at-the-ready are like having a set list, and can help you control the flow of the conversation and keep you on message. Here's how to prepare:
1. Research the journalist
Knowing who's interviewing you is, by far, the most important thing you can take ahead of the interview. And yet, this is the step that most skip. Spend a few minutes searching the name of the journalist to give you an idea of the types of stories they write, whether their work is usually negative or positive, what their interests are, who else they've interviewed, their style, and what they've been working on lately. If the interviewer has a blog or twitter use recent stories or tweets to talk about things that they are interested in to build a closer connection with them. This can make the interview process and even the final story go in your favor.
2. Ask them what to expect
Before the interview, ask them what kind of piece they're writing and what they're looking for from you. Journalists usually come into an interview situation already knowing the story they're planning to write. Sometimes they've composed it already and are just fishing for original quotes or to find out some more details about you and your music that aren't covered in your site or press materials. You'll want to know ahead of time what they're looking for so that you can make sure that your talking points are covered during the interview.
3. Prepare talking points
Your most powerful tool to influence what an interviewer writes or covers are called talking points which are topics and ideas you are ready to talk about. Some talking points include short answers to common questions such as “Who are your influences?”, “Where do you get your ideas?”, and "How did you start?" Others should be what you want the interviewer to cover -- your upcoming tour, your new album, press you received, and or key points from your current PR campaign.
If you're not on camera or sitting in front of the interviewer, we recommend having these talking points in front of you in a bullet list so you don't have to memorize them. Another great thing about having talking points is it also gives you an anchor to return to if the interview goes off track.
4. Create sound bites
The best kind of talking point is a sound bite. Soundbites are pithy, quotable statements you can prepare ahead of time. If you give journalists a good sound bite, they are more likely to use it in their pieces as-is. For instance, for our band, Beatnik Turtle, we always drop in the fact that we "wrote one song for every day of 2007, 365 songs". This phrase immediately resonates with interviewers and leads us to talk about TheSongOfTheDay.com project which is a strong topic for us to cover.
5. Prepare stories
You should always have ready stories about you, your music, your work, or live performances. Stories are memorable and can stand out in your interview. When that happens, it has a higher chance of being covered. Also, if your stories are entertaining you have a higher chance of being asked back just because they enjoyed it more, or it provided a better show for their audience.
6. Give them fact sheets and follow-ups
Once your interview is over, follow-up is a critical post-interview step. Thank them, provide additional information, links you promised them, or other material allows you to both reinforce your message as well as fix any potential misunderstandings. You may also want to include a bullet list or fact sheet of basic items that they can use to write about including your hometown, how many albums you have and what they are, spellings of everyone's last names, etc. Make it easy for them to write their story.
Typically a good interview depends on your personality, the chemistry you have with the interviewer, and your preparation. Out of the three, preparing is the one thing you can better control for to make sure the interview goes off as best as it can. If you do this, you'll not only be ready, you'll be able to make the most of your media coverage and maximize your exposure.
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