In Your Next Radio Interview: Sit Up Straight. Please.
Within 24 hours, I listened to two interviews on National Public Radio in which the individuals interviewed sounded as if they were still in bed. After listening to the second one, I thought, "The PR gods are calling me to write and correct this scourge on best interview practices."
First, an interview on NPR is a big deal. It is a media relations goldmine. If you are running for office or have just won an important race and A Martinez wants to interview you, seize it and introduce your platform to the country and political and civic leaders. If you are a researcher and a popular NPR show highlights what you have spent years working on, jump on it and plant your flag.
In the radio interviews I reference above, the subjects seem uninterested in speaking to the hosts and their millions of listeners. A Martinez, realizing, it seems, that he had to call out the elephant in the room, told his guest she sounded tired. When the researcher from the second interview answered a question in a tone that made me think she was lounging poolside with a daiquiri in hand, I swear the host giggled.
A radio interview can seem deceivingly easy, particularly these days when many people are conducting interviews from home. You can't see the person who is interviewing you. You don't have a camera in front of you or a microphone shoved too close to your face. As a result, it is easy to become a little too comfortable.
Like any interview, the goal is to communicate the importance of your topic and what it means to listeners. If there is a call to action, even better. However, none of that will matter if you come across as uninterested.
The best way to be energized for your interview is to be prepared and act as if the interview is on camera. By taking this approach, you will answer the reporter's questions with authority and a clear voice.
Sounding like a pro, however, takes more than just sitting up straight. Follow the steps below to prepare for your next radio interview. When you are confident and have your messages clearly thought out, you can sit down, shoulders back, and give an effective interview.
Define your goals. Before any interview, you must first define your goals. Based on the show's audience, you can determine if your goals are to educate, warn, or drive action. Do you want to elevate your organization's message or purpose related to an important conversation? Are you a political candidate who wants to promote your vision and influence voters? Once you know what you want to achieve in the interview, you can develop the messages that will drive your answers to a reporter's questions. If you are preparing your spokesperson, CEO, or candidate for an interview, it is also important for them to understand what they will achieve by doing it.
Identify key messages. Based on your goals, identify three to four messages that will help you achieve them. Write these down and for each one include examples, data, or stories that support your argument and resonate with the audience. Keep your messages short and simple; you want the audience to remember them.
Research the reporter. Always research the person who will be interviewing you. Maybe you have worked with them before, but you will still want to understand the stories they have reported on recently that are related to your topic. What in those stories may become questions for you? What was the reporter skeptical about that may influence the questions they ask you? This will help you with step four.
Prepare for the reporter's questions. The reporter is not your PR person. It is their job to understand your argument and to ask challenging questions to reveal if the audience should support or reject your proposal. Be prepared for these questions. Be aware of any controversy or misunderstanding related to your topic and be prepared to address it. And, answer the question. Yes, you want to focus on your messages and achieve the goals you have set for the interview, but you can only do this after you answer the question posed to you. Listeners are savvy. By avoiding the question, you risk damaging your credibility. However, you don't have to spend a lot of time on the question. Answer it quickly and transition to the message you want the audience to remember.
In the interview, sit up straight and project confidence and energy. I understand that the audience can't see you, however, by sitting up straight, shoulders back, and stomach in, you will sound engaged and project confidence and energy. It's that simple. Try it. It works. And, please, don't wake up right before an interview or conduct it right after a stressful meeting. If you are tired or frazzled, drink a cup of coffee or splash cold water on your face. Clear your throat. The audience will not hear your message if they are spending the interview thinking about whether or not you are lying in bed. That is if they haven't turned the interview off.
Want to see what happens when you aren't prepared for an interview and then refuse to answer the question you should have been prepared for? Learn some lessons from this video I discovered through one of my favorite blogs, the London-based Media First.
What do you do to ensure you are prepared for and engaged in an interview? I would love to read your tips in the comments.