Interviews are a good opportunity to present your company and its products in a positive light. The prerequisite for this is that you can confidently answer even difficult questions from a journalist and that you can address your messages to the audience as precisely as possible.
In order to be convincing in front of a microphone and perhaps even a camera, you should be well prepared. We will show you what you should consider and whether you should accept every interview request.
Does an interview always make sense?
If your company or your products can be related to current topics or if your company is generally significant in the region or even beyond, you may already have received requests for an interview.
However, it does not always make sense to agree to an interview request. You should therefore carefully check in advance whether you want to give the interview or not. According to media trainer Christian Schmidt-Egger, there are four questions1 that need to be answered in advance:
What is the benefit of my appearance and can I profit from it?
Do the journalist and his or her contribution offer a suitable environment (target group, reach and form of presentation of the medium)?
What risk does my appearance entail and is there a danger that I will be badly portrayed?
What does it cost me if I cancel the interview?
The last question relates to the time and effort required for the interview itself and the preparation. This side of the scales must be weighed against the following aspect: By refusing, you could annoy the journalist and deprive yourself of an opportunity to generate a benefit for marketing and PR purposes.
If you don’t know the journalist and the medium, get as much information as possible. Ask who is the person who will conduct the interview. It makes a difference whether the employed editor, the freelance journalist or the intern is to interview you and allows conclusions to be drawn about the importance you can attach to the article. His concern is also important, which can vary from benevolent to confrontational, from brief information to detailed information – perhaps he doesn’t want to quote you directly or is he planning a comprehensive background report on your company?
The circumstances during the interview must also be clarified. Does the journalist visit you with microphone and camera in your office or does he invite you to a broadcast in his studio? Does he want an interview in front of the camera, is the interview live or does he only use sound clips for his report?
Especially in a higher position in the company, you may hold several positions at the same time. So, make sure you have the right role to give the interview – for example, as a company director, as a representative of a committee, or were you chosen based on your specialist knowledge?
Preparing for the interview
All modalities were clarified and the answer to the questions after Schmidt-Egger resulted in that you should give the interview. Then it is time for the preparation. Perhaps the journalist has already provided you with some questions. However, there is no guarantee that the journalist will not deviate from them. Collect all possible questions that could be asked on the topic and prepare appropriate answers, at best in close cooperation with the PR or marketing team of your company. You or a colleague may have already been interviewed on a similar topic, from which you can now benefit.
The more precisely you create the catalogue of questions and answers, the more confident you will appear in the interview. Because if the answers are easy to get off your lips, you can concentrate on your appearance and external impact.
The prerequisite for this, however, is that you have already been able to put yourself into the interview situation in advance. If interviews are not part of your daily routine, practice the process with a colleague, your life partner or a good friend. Complex answers are well memorised and do not come across memorised if you have spoken them freely a few times. If you are planning an interview in front of the camera, it is also useful to record the test interviews with a video camera. In addition to the answers and the voice, the focus here is also on your body language.
When formulating the questions, make sure that you convey clear messages. So you can avoid difficult questions if necessary, if you don’t want to or can’t answer them. In response to the question: “Have you already had a serious accident at work?” you could, for example, answer: “Occupational safety is our top priority. This can be seen, for example, in the fact that our employees are continuously trained in this area and also practice the right behaviour in an emergency…”. These answers must, of course, also be truthful and must stand up to scrutiny by the journalist.
Critical topics: Strategies of journalists
If a committed journalist is on a story, he will find it hard to settle for evasive answers. He’ll use different strategies and tricks to get you out of your reserve. Get involved in an interview on a critical topic, so be immune to the journalists’ different strategies.
Repeat your answer no more than three times, best word for word, and do not be tempted to use an inappropriate wording. Stay relaxed and polite and don’t show any vehemence.
Interviews are a great thing to get momentum into the company blog or the employee newspaper, for example. However, meticulous preparation is indispensable.
Think carefully about what you want to achieve with your interview and with which interlocutor and which catalogue of questions you will reach your goal.
In order to achieve optimal results, you should give the interviewee the esteem he or she deserves, from the initial preparation to the completion of the article.
This is the only way to create a positive atmosphere not only for the moment, but also for possible future cooperation.