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Mastering the Press Interview

Not unlike any other interview, a press interview requires much more than simply being well-spoken. In fact, there are a number of factors you should be considering when you have the opportunity to chat with the media – all of which can potentially make or break your credibility and reliability as an industry professional.

By definition, this is an opportunity to sit down and have a Q&A discussion with a member or the media, so you definitely want to put your best foot forward whether it’s by email, phone, or podcast.

That said, with excellent preparation and research, you can successfully share your expert insight and even build some highly-coveted media relationships. As told by fellow event pros, here’s how you can nail your next press interview.

Get organized and do your research

Before you start prepping, understand that no two publications or blogs are the same. Common sense would tell you this, but if you consider the general tone of Forbes compared to somewhere like Martha Stewart Weddings, you’ll realize just how important it is to make sure you’re researching their existing content as well as their target audience.

Renée Daló of Moxie Bright Events advises, “Get a sense of the vibe and tone of the writer’s or interviewer's style. Also, prepare some talking points! Know what you want to mention (and what you definitely don't want to talk about), so you don't get thrown off-topic.” 

Taking a look at the writer or host’s past work can give you a sense of their focus and direction as well, and this can be a great starting point for deciding what you can bring to the table. Don’t be afraid to give a fresh take – in fact, it’s very important to step outside of the box and stand out from your peers.

Check your tech

The majority of slip-ups that I see when it comes to webinars, interviews, or otherwise is the lack of preparation when it comes to technology. If you’re going to conduct your press interview over the phone or via video call, it’s a good rule of thumb to test your equipment and internet connection well ahead of time.

Beyond ensuring that your tone matches up with that of the media outlet in question, Shannon Tarrant of WeddingVenueMap suggests a setting without distractions. “Make sure that you are in a quiet space with a great phone signal and you sound clear. The interviewee should plan to use headphones with a microphone to make the process of interviewing seamless. Plan extra time in your schedule so that you don't feel rushed. I suggest blocking the 30 minutes before and after to have the time you need to be fully prepared as well as in case the interview runs longer.”

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The interview process

Most interviewers will send you an email prompt or questions ahead of the scheduled date and time, and it’s crucial that you take advantage of this to outline exactly what you’ll be touching on. However, it’s equally likely that you may not be receiving questions ahead of a podcast episode or phone call, so it’s best to also come prepared with some anticipated talking points of your own.

Tracie Domino, founder and creative director of Tracie Domino Events notes, “Be ready to recall specific information, anecdotes and statistics so you have something intelligent to say. Think in terms of sound bites and what would resonate with someone reading what you have said. And don’t ever believe anything is off the record. If you say it, expect it to be fair game.”

The day of

It’s finally time to answer that Q&A and delve into your expertise. While you’ll want to avoid self-promotion in your responses and keep your answers concise and thoughtful - above all, stick to what you know and rely on accuracy.

Be clear in your intent from the beginning, and keep a positive, professional attitude throughout the whole process, even if you feel it’s a little more informal than you’re used to. Eliminate any jargon as well; you still want to come off as knowledgeable to readers or listeners.

Additionally, keep in mind that these features always have a deadline, and oftentimes your interviewer will have multiple articles in rotation that’s pulling them in different directions. Respect their time and follow their instructions carefully.

With these points in mind, you’ll be well on your way to perfecting your interview with the press and positioning yourself as a go-to expert in your industry!

Meghan Ely

President, OFD Consulting, Richmond, VA

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 

Photo: Melody Smith Portraits