How to get prepared for media interview efficiently 

Time to prepare for media interviews, is the biggest concern to 80% of you who responded to our survey.

That is good news! It demonstrates a real understanding of the importance of preparation as the key to any successful interview.  Poor and potentially damaging interviews are carried out by those who think they can “wing it.”

In my experience people often lack time for preparation because they are not sure how to start and therefore preparation time is elbowed out by more manageable tasks.  Often the subject–matter seems too broad and consists of too many unknowns.

It is a little known fact that under the Ofcom guidelines – you as an interviewee have should be given a detailed and accurate description of the nature of your contribution – including (importantly – the question areas) as well details of others on the same item.

Under section 7 of the Ofcom Broadcasters’ code, interviewees have the right “to be informed about the areas of questioningand, wherever possible, the nature of other likely contributions”.  They must also “be made aware of any significant changes to the programme as it develops which might reasonably affect their original consent to participate, and which might cause material unfairness”.

You may not be given this unless you ask for it and in my experience, unless the request comes via the company’s media adviser, individuals feel uncomfortable probing too much. Rest assured if roles were reversed, the journalists would be giving you a grilling before accepting an interview!

I have advised companies who have faced a Panorama investigation or similar where the material presented to them by the broadcaster, was inadequate for them to understand the angle of the programme and the nature of their contribution.  By asking detailed questions, the broadcasters do provide a fuller and more detailed picture.  I know this because when I was a TV producer, I would often choose to be vague.  When asked for more, I would comply with the broadcasting codes and provide the accurate information that was requested.

Questions that should be asked before agreeing to an interview include, why now, what is the angle, why us, who else are you talking to, who else will be on the programme, how long do you see our contribution, who will be interviewing us, is it live or prerecord and importantly, what are the question areas?

Once you have these questions, you can make an informed decision about whether you wish to be involved and if you do, you have a clear framework from where you can start your preparation.

We would also advise you to plan your messages and see how you will address the question areas given to you.  It is always best to rehearse with a well-briefed colleague or a media adviser.

Preparation time should be booked in the diary and given the importance it deserves.