How to Nail Your Media Interview Over the Phone
If you’ve been following my blog posts over the past several years, you know I’ve focused primarily on providing tips for on-camera interview opportunities. This is because our clients not only seem to ask the most questions about TV appearances, but they also appear to be the most nervous about these interviews. This is not to say, though, that print and online media interviews shouldn’t be taken seriously. While an over-the-phone interview certainly can feel less stressful than a live TV appearance, there are still a number of ways you should prepare and several considerations to keep in mind to ensure your insight is included in the published article.
The following is a list of tips to prepare for and conduct a successful over-the-phone media interview.
Create Bulleted Talking Points
Talking points are a useful tool for any type of interview, but the beauty of an over-the-phone media interview is you can have your notes right in front of you! I recommend a bulleted list of ideas or tips you have for the topic at hand. You want to avoid lengthy paragraphs or anything script-like. Even though this is an interview, it’s also a conversation, so you want to be natural! If the reporter provides their questions in advance, take full advantage. Draft talking points that specifically address their questions and make note of any additional points you think are relevant or worth sharing. Not sure how to develop effective talking points? The tips I provide in this blog are a useful guide and can be applied as you create for talking points.
Gather Other Useful Information
Aside from your talking points, it’s smart to have other materials readily available, should you want to reference them during your interview. This can range anywhere from recent market data and trends to a book that relates to the topic you’re interviewing on. While these materials may not be used, it’s always smart to have them within an arm’s reach during your phone call so you can quickly grab them and reference for any useful information.
Provide Concise, Quotable Answers
This might be the most important take away from this blog, so take note! It can be easy to fall victim to long-winded answers when you’re discussing complicated financial matters. Providing concise, easy-to-understand and quotable responses to the reporter’s questions is key to make sure you’re not cut from the published article. What does it mean to be quotable? Be interesting, be unique, use relatable analogies and reference trendy topics. Reporters love to explain a complex financial topic with an analogy or relate it to today’s buzz-worthy topics. If you’re looking for a pro within the industry who has nailed this down – check out Ed Slott’s articles and interviews! Here’s a great example where he encourages millennials to get off Instagram and start investing in a Roth IRA!
Use a Landline or Make Sure You’ll Have Solid Coverage
One question you want to avoid during your interview: “Can you hear me now?” Ideally, it’s best to provide your office or landline number for a phone interview. This reduces the chances of connection issues and also helps ensure the phone call won’t be missed since you have a team of employees who can answer the call if you’re not readily available. If you’re on-the-go and using your cell phone is the best option, make sure you’ll be in an area where you have good coverage and your call won’t be dropped. Also, try your best to be in a place that is quiet and without a lot of background noise. Do anything you can to make sure you can easily hear the reporter, and they can clearly hear your insight.
Follow the Reporter’s Lead
When you do a TV interview, it’s usually straight forward: you have 3-5 minutes to get your point across, so you need to be laser-focused on your messaging during the interview. When it comes to a phone interview, though, you may find that the reporter is open to a more relaxed conversation. It’s important to sense their tone, though. When you first answer the call, if the reporter jumps straight into questions, it’s probably a good sign they are on a tight deadline and don’t have any time to mess around. Keep your insight to the point and, if needed, they will ask follow-up questions to further clarify your answers. If the reporter sets a more relaxed tone and wants to know how your day is going or what the weather is like in your part of the country, don’t hesitate to engage in a pleasant conversation. Furthermore, if the reporter is asking advanced, in-depth questions, recognize that they are likely wanting to dive deep into the topic at hand, and your responses can reflect that.
Thank You and Offer Additional Insight
When your interview starts to wrap up, remember your manners—be sure to thank the reporter for the opportunity to speak with them. It’s also smart to let them know you’re available for additional insight, should they need it. If you’re going to be in back-to-back meetings for the rest of the day, or if you’re planning to leave for vacation for the new week, be sure to let me know the best way to get ahold of you, should they have any follow-up questions.
You may also be anxious to know when you’ll see your name in print or online but tread lightly in this line of questioning. It can be presumptuous to assume your insight will be included in the article. So, if you’re curious as to when the story might run, ask the reporter, “I’m looking forward to reading your final piece on this topic. When do you expect it will be published?” Or, another smart way to get an idea as to when an article might run is to inquire about their deadline, “If I think of additional information to share with you, when is your deadline for this piece so I can be sure to share it in time?”
While preparing for a media phone interview can certainly take less time than a TV one, these tips can help ensure that you provide useful information that the reporter will want to incorporate into their article. And, if you’re successful in nailing your interview, you may find that the reporter will be calling you back for future articles as they find you to be a reliable and informative source.
Jill Jagelski Jagelski Schofield is the Director of Public Relations for AdvisorPR and a former executive producer and anchor for an NBC affiliate. Established in 2005, AdvisorPR is a branding, marketing and public relations firm dedicated to providing custom and turnkey marketing communications solutions exclusively to financial professionals and the corporate companies that serve them.