Putting your best foot forward: media management and interview prep

photo of a news video camera

“Dr. Jenkins, are you available today for an interview on the tuberculous outbreak in our county?” Exciting or terrifying? 

In this post we’ll focus on preparing for television interviews.  Many interviews are recorded and often air later the same day or the following day. Additionally, many of these interviews will result in snippets posted on the news station’s website and on social media channels. Media work is a fantastic public health approach and a smart business strategy. Below are some tips.

  1. Engage your communications partners. Reach out to your media relations colleagues and your professional organizations to see if they have media training opportunities and seek feedback on any engagements. Be cognizant of organizational policies; often the organization prefers if you are escorted for interviews.
  2. Respond quickly! If an interviewer reaches out, respond ASAP; otherwise, they’ll find someone else. Often TV reporters need an interview same day, depending on the timeliness of the topic.
  3. Know your audience. Check out the station’s website and social channels to get a feel for the format. Assess the expected health literacy of the audience and modify your language accordingly.
  4. How much? Clarify the anticipated duration of the TV segment. 
  5. Do your homework. Read relevant guidelines and statistics and share links or other resources that the interviewer might share with your story. Feel free to decline an invitation if you don’t feel you’re the right person for the job.
  6. When? Clarify whether the interview will be live or edited and shown later. Oftentimes, recorded interviews are turned around quickly and may be minimally edited. Ask when/where the interview will air/post. 
  7. Practice your one-liners. Have a sound bite prepared that you want to be the take-home message. Be prepared for the final question “Is there anything else you’d like to share or anything I’ve missed?” This is the perfect opportunity to squeeze in something that didn’t fit elsewhere. Include a personal (HIPAA-compliant) story! Expect many of your words (unless live) to be chopped and potentially standing alone out of context. Don’t be disappointed if your interview gets bumped or canceled related to late-breaking news or other priorities. 
  8. Introduce yourself! Start interviews that aren’t live by stating and spelling your name and stating your title (brief one-liner, otherwise it’s likely to be shortened). 
  9. Smile, you’re on camera! Wear a solid color, watch your facial expressions and body language, and check your distance from the camera if you’re virtual.
  10. Follow up! Watch the segment before sharing the link on your organization’s or personal channels. The media are not required to change what they report but if there is a safety issue, they will typically make edits. Add the link to your media portfolio. Share your work on your social channels and share with your media partners. Review your work and commit to continual improvement!

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