Marketing & Communications Centre > Marketing Essentials > Help Sheets > Preparing for an Interview

Preparing for an Interview

As your community group or organisation works hard to build its media contact book, and develop and strengthen its media contacts, there will come a time when you start being approached for interviews.

Whether it is an interview for radio, television or press, these are the sorts of opportunities that your group needs to make the most of in order to get your messages out to the community.

To get to this stage, your group has more than likely worked very hard to develop its media contact book and build strong relationships with journalists and media outlets. That sort of preparation work needs to be backed up by good planning in the lead-up to the interview itself.

Planning for your interview will help make sure your group has something interesting and relevant to say, and that you say it in an interesting way.

Not only that, but it will help you gather the messages you want to get out to the public and package them up into nice, bite-size chunks that are just perfect for quoting or for use as sound bites.

Some people are blessed with the ability to produce fantastic newsworthy quotes every time they open their mouth. The rest of us have to practise and prepare.

Interview preparation is a discipline, but one which will pay dividends over time. As your group improves its ability to give a good interview, more and more media outlets will seek you out for comment.

And because media exposure has a snowball effect, your group's preparedness for interviews through good planning will result in more "return customers" – with the media coming back for more.

Tips on Planning for an Interview

Know your interviewer.

It is important your group and its media spokesperson know who is interviewing you.

You should know the name of the interviewer, as well as the media outlet they represent – especially important to add to or edit your contact book details and to allow you to contact them after the interview if necessary.

It is also handy to be aware of any past contact your group has had with the interviewer and media outlet – particularly if you have had any "run-ins" in the past. Knowing what they are interested in also helps to prepare your answers to suit what they need as well as getting your message across.

Know what the story's about.    

Make sure you know what you are going to be talking about.

If it is promoting a group event, activity or fundraiser then you'll know the details. If that is the case, it might be a good idea to talk to the journalist/interviewer beforehand and say to them what you need to get in, and ask them if that's possible.

Then ask what they want to know, if anything. There's generally room for both of you to get what you want.

But if the reporter and media organisation has approached you for comment (which, after all, is what you are aiming for when it comes to working with the media!) then you need to make sure you know the thrust of what your group is being asked to comment on or talk about.

Ask the reporter what the main focus of the story will be and what you're being asked to contribute. Tailor your responses to be useful, informative and quotable – as well as expressing the opinions and viewpoints of your organisation to the issue.

Know your own agenda.

It may be a good idea, before going into any interview, to think of two or three main points you would like to make over and above any basic or core message you are aiming to convey during the interview.

That way your spokesperson can be prepared with these points and, if the opportunity arises, can slot them into the interview.

Prepare your responses and sound bites.

Once you know what you are going to be asked – or what you are going to be talking about – you need to prepare and practice your responses.

You need to gather and prepare any key information required to get your message across, and then practice packaging this information in a ways that is succinct, but memorable and "has a hook".

This is where preparing some short, sharp, notable sound bites can be a huge benefit. If you are able to work out a good, concise, colourful quote that sums up your message, then it is highly likely that it will be the section of your interview that is repeated in the news report.

More information on developing a sound bite is available in the help sheet Creating a Tasty Sound Bite.

Once you have developed that sound bite, tweak it to make sure it is relevant to the issue at hand. Then your spokesperson should practice delivering it – again, and again, until you are confident in doing so.

Another part of response preparation is to think about questions your group might be asked, and then develop responses for them as well. Those responses might be simply to deflect those questions – or to change the subject smoothly - but make sure you have them prepared and ready to use.

Prepare relevant statistics/information for use.

Another element that your group can prepare for use in an interview is some relevant statistics or information to back up your message.

For example: "If we raise another $1000, we can double the amount of aid we send to ……. , and that means we will be able to help 100 more disadvantaged children go to school."

This sort of simple statement of facts and figures, when used wisely, can really leave a mark on viewers/readers/listeners and stick in their memory.

More information on conducting an interview is available in the help sheet Conducting an Interview, at the Media & Marketing Centre on the Our Community website.

The information contained on this site is subject to change. Our Community will not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever coming from reliance placed on all or part of its contents.