How to navigate your first media interview

Naomi Brooker

SUADA founder Naomi Brooker. Source: Supplied.

You’ve perfected your brand story and pitched your idea. And bingo, a journalist loves your story and wants to interview you for a feature. Nice work! When the excitement settles and the nerves start to creep in, take a structured approach to preparing for your interview so you can confidently tell your brand story and build a quality working relationship with the journalist. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the first of hopefully many media opportunities.

Before the interview

  • Get a list of questions from the journalist, even if they’re indicative, and practice your responses. This preparation will help you to be more relaxed, more confident and more capable of delivering a quality interview. 
  • Research your interviewee. Know their experience and journalistic history, note any hobbies (maybe they’ve authored a book or worked across the world), and read a few recent articles they’ve published. If it’s a face-to-face meeting, find a photo on one of their social media channels or public profile, so you know who to look out for. 
  • Prepare three–five key points about your business and be sure to communicate them during the interview. These should include simple, concise sentences about what your business does, what makes it different to other (potentially similar) organisations and what inspired you to establish the business in the first place.

At the interview

  • Don’t be late. Arrive at your destination five or 10 minutes before your meeting or if it’s over the phone, have notes, a pen and paper or your laptop in front of you at least five minutes before calling the journalist. This is not only professional courtesy, but it will also give you time to compose yourself before the interview starts. 
  • Don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’ to a question. It prevents you from lying, exaggerating or being evasive. Just be sure to follow up with an answer later.
  • Clarify if the information you’re about to share is confidential and state explicitly that it’s ‘off the record’. Never assume that a journalist will know what you are and are not willing to have published.
  • Agree on next steps before leaving the interview. Do you need to clarify any points? Does the journalist need examples, case studies or more information? Note this down and remember to deliver.  

After the interview

  • Write a ‘nice to meet you’ note within 24 hours of meeting, specifying any information you will send them and when. Add any questions you want clarified, including when the journalist anticipates publishing the story.
  • Don’t assume your story will be top of the pile. If your story isn’t considered ‘urgent’, there’s a chance it will get pushed if a bigger news story swoops in. Be patient and don’t hesitate to follow up if you don’t hear anything for a couple of weeks.
  • Once your story is published, share it! Use it as content on your social media channels, email it to stakeholders as an article of interest and share it with colleagues. 

Your first media interview is an exciting step in building the reputation of your startup. While it can be a daunting experience, being prepared, confident and persistent is key to ensuring that this is the first of many successful media opportunities. 

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