Media interview best practices

Landing an interview with a top-tier technology reporter is rare. If your story is good enough to catch their attention, get a response, and land you an interview, it’s an incredible opportunity to strike up a relationship and show that you’re there to help them uncover what’s interesting to their readers.

Unfortunately, not every interview goes smoothly.

To make sure your next conversation with a reporter is mutually beneficial, we asked three journalists what companies should avoid during an interview. Study their responses to prepare for your next chat with the media.

Mike: What’s one thing the person you are interviewing should never say? Or one thing about interviews that you dislike?

Christina Farr, Senior Writer at Fast Company, specializing in health tech and science

“When companies decline to provide specifics on their number of users or revenue. We expect that it’ll be low for an early-stage company. Don’t evade the question to keep the illusion that you’re bigger than you are.”

Alexander George, Associate Editor for Popular Mechanics, covering technology

“It would make my life better if people would read this:

  • Yes, it’s annoying when the person stops being a human and pretends that competitors don’t exist. The person can say, “If I can talk off the record…” as a preface, if that helps, but it starts feeling like a deposition if they just pretend a very prominent company or product isn’t real.
  • Rehearsed marketing jargon makes me worry that the person isn’t being candid. “Disrupt,” “Uber for ___,” that kind of thing. Honestly, just be a human being and talk to me like you’re explaining it to an interested friend.
  • I always emphasize to PR people or anyone coordinating an interview that I will bend my schedule to make sure that the person I’m interviewing is well-rested and not in a rush. When you get the sense that someone is staring at the clock (even on the phone), it hurts the interaction a lot.
  • I know it’s sometimes policy, but both parties are much more comfortable when there are no PR people on the line. Also, conference calls can sometimes lag or have an echo, which is another bummer.”

Bob Sorokanich, Online News Editor of Road & Track Magazine, whose reporting on car tech also appears in Esquire

“I think the thing I hate the most is when I ask a specific question, and the company rep responds with a pivot to something completely unrelated.

This may be unique to the auto industry, but we often have very detailed questions — about fuel economy, how much a car weighs, data with specific numerical answers.

When a company rep ducks an engineering question and pivots to talking about subjective points, it’s aggravating as hell.

Of course, it’s endemic to my industry, because the automakers have been working with press for so long, they’ve figured out exactly how to groom all their public-facing engineers and execs for maximum PR compliance.”