On occasion you may be asked to comment for a story. The reporter could be seeking information on a topic related to your industry or reporting on something that occurred at your firm. While a crisis requires special handling, an occasional phone interview is something you can address. These pointers will help make your interview go smoothly.
Know your facts Chances are the reporter will ask about routine matters. Try to imagine the types of questions you’ll be asked, and compose answers. (Also, when the reporter calls, have your assistant gather some idea of what will be covered.) Notes and other necessary information should be at your fingertips. The conversation may be relatively brief–perhaps 10 to 15 minutes–so make sure you can find the pertinent details quickly.
Start and remain positive Even if you think the reporter will take an adversarial position, begin the conversation in a friendly manner. Answering the phone with, “Oh, hi, how are you?” or “Yes, I heard you’d be calling” should set a positive tone. No need to get too friendly–some reporters may resent that, especially if they don’t know you–but you can take advantage of the contact to potentially change a negative perception.
Maintain your composure during the interview, even if it appears that you’re being badgered or boxed into a corner.
Don’t be alarmed by a business-like demeanor on the reporter’s part. The reporter is simply doing his or her job. Part of that job is to remain detached. Answer the questions thoroughly, and have the reporter clarify or restate any questions you do not understand.
Compose your thoughts before speaking The reporter will probably record the conversation for convenience and accuracy. Print reporters sometimes clean up or paraphrase a comment that is less than perfect. Unfortunately, quotes for broadcast may contain your verbal tics. (Listen carefully to interviews with athletes.)
Practicing your answers in advance helps, but you may still be a bit nervous during the interview. Before answering a question, pause for a few seconds to compose yourself and your answer. Be sure to speak clearly and at a moderate pace.
End on a high note Thank the reporter for the opportunity to present your side of the issue. If the conversation went well, you may be contacted in the future as similar stories develop. Being recognized as a willing subject may garner you and your firm additional, valuable exposure later.
Calls from the media can seem intimidating at first. They shouldn’t. With sufficient preparation and practice, you will deliver thoughtful comments smoothly and confidently.