Ever wonder why some authors get to have great big features written about them, while others are lucky to get a brief mention? Of course, editors and TV producers all have their own ideas about what stories they want to cover, but very often, the depth of the coverage comes down to whether or not the subject gave them a kick-ass interview.
So how do you give a media interview that will keep a reporter hanging on your every word, and compel them to devote thousands of words to you? Here are our pro tips.
1. Think ahead. Try to anticipate what kinds of questions are likely to come your way, and be ready with an answer. If you’re thinking your way through your answers on the fly, you’re likely to come across as muddled — and if you don’t understand what you’re trying to say, neither will they.
2. Be flexible. The aspects of your work that the media are most interested in may not be the ones you wish they would focus on. Get over yourself, and give them what they want. If you stubbornly insist on trying to steer the conversation or dictate the angle you think they should take, you will never win; you’ll only irritate your interviewer and leave them with too little material that they like, so the story will be cut short.
3. Use your personality. You’re an author, not a police detective at a crime scene media briefing. Loosen up, speak conversationally, and reveal a little emotion or opinion. This will bring colour and life to your media interview and make your story much more fun to write — and more fun to read.
4. Think in soundbites. Print reporters need to find short, eloquent quotes that they can lift directly out of your interview and slot into their story. Radio and television broadcasters need punchy little clips. Think up some short and sweet phrases in advance that sum up the most interesting aspects of you or your work in a few words, then be sure to drop them into your media interview. That way, even if most of your answers are rambling and long-winded, they’ll have a few good gems to pluck out.
5. Be selective. Don’t try to cram everything into your media interview. Most listeners and readers can’t absorb more than a few ideas at a time, anyway. It’s much more effective to speak memorably and deeply about a few constrained aspects of your book than to try to touch upon every little point.
6. Be responsive. Media are notoriously last-minute about booking interviews because they’re always up against deadlines and coverage priorities shift quickly. Be ready to drop everything and make yourself available when they call. If you’re hard to reach, they’re often likely to move on.
7. Don’t be demanding. Journalists get a lot of requests for coverage every single day – and some of those requests are pretty heavy handed. Arrogance, entitlement, preciousness and pushiness are like media repellent. Always be gracious, professional, and respectful of the journalist’s right to publish what they want, when they want.
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