PR Tactics From a Former Reporter: How to Prepare for a Media Interview

As a local and network news reporter, I conducted thousands of interviews over nearly two decades. Yet it was only after I made the leap into strategic and crisis communications that I fully appreciated the complex dynamic at play.

As a reporter, it never occurred to me how vital media training could be for leaders in corporate America, the nonprofit world, higher education or any public-facing organization. Having now counseled dozens of clients on myriad delicate and high-profile issues, I’m convinced that no responsible spokesperson should speak to a journalist without: (A) a clearly articulated and vetted set of messages and (B) feeling comfortable and confident in delivering those messages.

Public perception is that the interviewer is playing offense while the interviewee is on defense. That should never be the mindset of the individual being interviewed, however. As former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger quipped to the media, “What questions do you have for my answers today?” Kissinger had a job to do: deliver the administration’s talking points, and regardless of what was asked, he was going to do it. Similarly, the spokesperson has a job and should think of himself as playing offense: proactively pushing out key talking points, even if it’s in the context of answering a reporter’s question.

T.J. Winick, VP, Solomon McCown & Company

Having a firm grasp of messages is one way to remain on point during an interview.

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