Even as the number of publications worldwide declines and newsrooms continue to shrink, 60 new magazines were launched in 2020 in the middle of the pandemic.
Magazines line one wall of every Barnes & Noble I’ve ever walked into, and there is an entire section of BookPeople, my locally-owned bookstore, filled with rows and rows of magazines. This segment of media is fun to pitch and many times you can enjoy the benefit of both print coverage, as well as the publication’s online coverage.
By the time you are in the ‘interview seat’ for a magazine interview, you’ve already been vetted by the writer and have been given the stamp of approval as an authority or expert on the subject-at-hand.
Because the pitch precedes the interview itself, you’ll also already know the interview topic and have an indication of what is of most interest to the writer. Now you can focus on preparing, practicing and delivering a great media interview.
1. Find out the format.
While in email or phone conversation with the writer, find out the article’s format. Are you being interviewed for a feature article on you or your business? Or, are you one of three or four interviews that are part of a round-up that supports a trend or timely news? Are you a subject-matter expert who is giving an expert opinion or advice versus sharing a story with the magazine’s readers? Is this a print or online story, or both?
One of the easiest ways to find out is by asking questions such as these:
– Who else are you planning to interview for this article?
– What section of the magazine will the article appear?
– Will the story appear in print, online, or in both formats?
2. Research the writer and the publication.
Study previously written stories from the same section in which your article will appear and read the writer’s bio. Knowing a little more about the writer and the article placement before the interview can give you a good indication of the types of questions you will be asked during your interview.
3. Write your key messages.
What do you want to be known for? What do you want your audience to remember the very most? What question do you know you’ll be asked because you answer it over and over again? What is the call to action you have for readers? Once you have all of these answers in place, then write down the three to five most important messages you want to communicate during your interview. These are the foundational answers, or key messages, you will use during your interview.
4. Gather great visuals.
Magazines are known for including photos and charts on nearly every single page in the publication. Online sites also publish images and graphics that pop. Look through your media assets and find the five to seven photos or graphics that best illustrate your key points. Also create a Word doc that includes the file name of each photo or graphic, and a photo caption or description of who or what is featured in each one. Don’t forget to include photographer credits in your Word doc, if those apply.
5. Anticipate the questions.
Internalizing your key messages and delivering them well takes practice. Write a list of 10 possible questions you think you might be asked in your upcoming interview. Include some difficult questions or ones that you don’t really want the interviewer to ask you.
6. Practice your responses.
Now, set up your cellphone’s voice recorder to record yourself as you answer these questions aloud, one after another. Once done, then play back your answers. Do your recorded answers match up with your key messages? Do you sound engaged and interested in the conversation? And, do you genuinely believe you are answering the question and providing value to the readers?
If you have a willing friend or colleague, they can also help you practice.
Once you can say ‘YES’ to the questions above and you feel comfortable delivering your key messages, then you’re ready for your interview.
Magazine media interviews can also double as a way for writers to create media interview content that can be used to create a short video that complements an online story. If that’s the case, then your interview could be conducted over Zoom, TEAMS, Webex or FaceTime, instead of the phone.
7. Speak with confidence.
This is your opportunity to share your opinion and knowledge. You were invited to share what you know because of your expertise. So, take a deep breath and convey your answers with confidence.
8. Stay on message.
Because you are most likely conducting the interview on the phone, then you can put your key messages in front of you throughout the entire experience. The practice you did leading up to the interview will make sure you don’t read from your key messages documents. Instead, use your key messages as helpful reminders about what you want to communicate most during the interview. And, if you find yourself starting to veer off message, then wrap up what you are saying and wait for the next question to be posed by the interviewer.
9. Don’t over-answer the questions.
Your key messages are written into individual sentences for a reason. Just as you would in any conversation, don’t over-answer questions. It could take your interview off-track. Listen to the question you are asked. Pause slightly to make sure you’ve heard the whole question and aren’t interrupting the interviewer, and then deliver your best answer.
10. Stay focused.
This isn’t the time to check your email or text anyone. You’ve worked hard for this moment, so close all open windows on your computer and set your phone to silent, especially if you are using your cell phone for the interview. And if you are on your cell phone, then use a reliable headset or earphones. Don’t ever put your interviewer on speakerphone because it can show a lack of respect, and also potentially garble the conversation. So not worth it!
11. Wrap up.
At the end of the interview, ask the writer if he, she or they got everything needed for the story. Follow that up with a friendly “Thank you for having me today” and “Please email me if you need anything else. Can I send you some photos?” Then, you can go back and share those great visuals you collected. Dropbox is a great way to share photos and then you’ll also be able to see when the reporter joins the shared file folder.
You can also ask when the article will be published and if it will be published online, so you can link the article to your website and get ready to celebrate it on social media.
12. Don’t forget — Have fun!
This is your big moment, but if you spend time preparing then it should be a great day. Enjoy the experience and then share your success on social when the interview hits the newsstands or is published online.
Interview with Crisis Communications Expert Gerald Baron
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