How to Make an Impact with a Media Interview

How to Make an Impact with a Media Interview

Almost every day I have the honor of sitting down with people who are working to power the good in our community and interviewing them for television and radio shows, podcasts, and this Giving Back column. Some guests have a great deal of experience with media interviews and are comfortable on sets with camera lights and microphones, while others are first timers who are nervous. Since media interviews are a valuable opportunity to raise awareness for a nonprofit, to reach and engage new volunteers and donors, and to build support and relationships inside and outside of our city, here are some personal tips to make the most of any media opportunity that comes your way.

Always start with some preparation and research. Make sure you know the length of your interview, the host and basic audience profile, proper attire, and format. Use that information to construct a list of main topics that you want to cover, so you can use your time wisely. I don’t recommend writing down questions for the host or your exact answers because you want to keep the conversation natural and not get tripped on the sequence or trying to answer exactly how you had written your responses. The idea is to know the main topics, stories, statistics, and points of emphasis that you’d like to make, so you can weave those into the conversation and help guide the host.

When it comes to getting the most out of your interview, understand that you’re in control. Many hosts don’t have an opportunity to do much, if any, research prior to the interview, so they’re relying on you, as the guest, to be a subject matter expert and to help guide the conversation by sharing content that will be helpful or entertaining for their audience. Just like sitting down with a potential donor for the first time, hosts will be in the moment and ask questions that follow a logical sequence based on the answer you just gave them. The more polished your stories and the more insight you can offer, the more fun and success you’ll have with it.   

So, email your main topics, along with your contact information and social media handles to the show producer and host ahead of time; but assume they will not have time to read it prior to the interview. Including your contact information is important so the station can tag you correctly when the interview is archived online later; and sometimes they will use your listed topics as part of the show description. 

Regarding the media format, know that television interviews need to bounce back and forth quickly, so short stories and quick answers are best. Radio interviews can be a little longer and then podcasts and interviews for written stories, like this column, can be longer. So, when you’re practicing and polishing your stories, you’ll need to have different versions and lengths for the different mediums.

My last tip is to smile a lot. Smiling when you talk, even during a radio interview where the audience cannot see you, lifts your spirits and creates an energy that’s engaging. Smiles are contagious and will draw your host and audience in, which will ensure you connect effectively and make the most of your media opportunity.

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