Five Tips to Maximize a Media Interview

Keep your eye on your agenda.

You’ve introduced yourself to a reporter and booked a date for the interview. (Or your public relations counsel has set it up.)

Here’s an essential reminder:

The reporter is not your friend.

You say you once dated the reporter’s cousin. It doesn’t matter.

You attended the same college or were members of the same fraternity or sorority. Who cares?

Your agenda when speaking to the reporter is to forcefully and persuasively present your insights and key messages, representing yourself and your company as authentically and positively as possible.

Your goal is for the journalist to discuss your ideas, and to do so in a favorable light.

The reporter’s agenda is to explore the situation in a way that brings clarity and new information, or, perhaps, a fresh point of view, on a topic vital to their readers.

They will explain why the audience should care about the subject and what they should do about it.

Even though your agendas overlap to a degree, you cannot count on the reporter being receptive to your perspective.

They may be neutral — or even antagonistic.

Consequently, you should prepare for your interview, following these five tips.

Keep these tips handy as a business size card or a tip sheet.

  1. Make a list of THREE important points. Print it in 16 point type.
    This is probably a phone or Zoom interview. The reporter cannot see that you have a cheat sheet on your desk to help you remember the main points of what you want to say. The large font makes it easy for you to read your ideas.
  2. For each point, create memorable examples. Use the FOUR A’s to keep the reporter’s (and reader’s) interest:
    Analogy: Compare your idea to something common: This is like a revolving door. It goes around and around and never arrives anywhere.
    Anecdote: Briefly give an example of this insight from experience or project a probable outcome.
    Acronym: Give a twist to a familiar acronym; ASAP becomes As Soon As PROFITABLE. Or invent one of your own; state it and follow-up with an explanation. CCW means Clients Can’t Wait.
    Alliteration: Every word in a series or phrase starts with the same letter. See what I did with the Four A’s? Analogy, Anecdote, Acronym, Alliteration.
  3. Answer the difficult question as briefly as possible and stop talking.
    Move on to the next topic.
  4. When a reporter tries to put words in your mouth, close your lips and swallow.
    Don’t repeat the words of the question, especially when they are derogatory or inflammatory. Take a breath, then proceed with your answer.
  5. At the end of the interview, when the reporter asks if there is anything you wish to add, make sure you have covered your THREE messages.
    Perhaps you were not able to mention the second one on your list; grab the initiative and talk about it before you wrap up the interview.
    If you have already shared your three messages, restate them as a summary of the discussion.

This Month’s Tip

Do not ask for, nor expect to receive, a preview of the article or your quote. How do you like it when a coworker hovers over your shoulder while you compose a report? Instead, team up with the reporter. Perhaps you will say: I know we’ve covered a lot of ground in this conversation, some of which is rather technical. If you have any questions about what we’ve discussed, or would like to review anything with me, I’m happy to help.

Better to ask when the article will be published, so that you can promote it on your social media accounts and include it in your newsletter. Reporters will be happy to learn you will drive your contacts to read it.


Be ready when you call a reporter for your interview. Contact me at, set an appointment here or call me at 212.677.5770. Let’s practice with two scenarios, one amicable and one hostile. You’ll know how to get your points across when a (not-so) friendly reporter is on the line.

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(This discussion has been lightly edited for updated content.)
Image credit: Pixabay