How to Shine in a Media Interview: 6 Tips for Success by @wsrapport


by Karima Mariama-Arthur | Featured Contributor

If you’re preparing for a media interview (to include newspaper, radio, or television), there are 6 key things you need to know if you want to shine—I mean really shine—during your big debut.

There are numerous opportunities for media coaching and if you have the time and budget, I strongly suggest investing in a topnotch program. One highly successful program is offered by The Women’s Media Center (TWMC), which is considered the premier media and leadership training program for women in the country. Participants receive advanced, comprehensive training and tools to position themselves as media spokeswomen within their fields. Directly engaged with the media at all levels, TWMC ensures that a diverse group of women is present in newsrooms, on air, in print, and online – as sources and subjects. Some of the top media spokeswomen in the country have attended this training, so believe me; it’s worth taking a look!

However, if investing in a targeted coaching program isn’t for you, consider the following tips as your “advanced playbook” when preparing to take center stage:

1. Preparation is the key to success. If you don’t see the value in preparing for a media interview, then forget about doing it. I mean it. Sometimes media outlets will ask you for a list of talking points, which most interviewees pray for. So, if you want to get ahead of the curve, create a list of talking points now—then they’ll be ready when you need them. Not sure how to prepare talking points? Get the particulars, here.

Oftentimes, however, the outlet may simply provide you with the general topics it intends to cover. Although this may not be ideal, it can still be quite useful. Now, if a media source prefers that the interview be completely “organic”, it may not provide you with any of the typical “pre-packaged” guidance. In these instances, you’ll need to anticipate tough questions in advance and craft your answers accordingly. Having talking points pays huge dividends here.

Also, remember that gathering information about the media outlet, reporter, and audience are critical to preparing for your success in the spotlight.

2. Don’t try to control the interview. As the 3rd rail of government, the media is powerful, influential, and oftentimes hell-bent on managing its own agenda. Therefore, don’t expect to “grandstand” on your day in the spotlight. Don’t waste your time trying to control the interview process—the questions asked—or the way that they are asked. Forget about it! Here’s the “golden ticket”: You do get to control how you answer every question! The quickest way to get yourself into trouble—even sabotage your career—is by failing to thoughtfully manage your commentary. Be smart and choose your words wisely.

3. Manage your emotions. Managing your emotions is a key factor in every interview. Make a conscious choice to exhibit decorum, not get upset, or become combative with the reporter. Know that emotions can be conveyed in various formats, not just television. So, while facial expressions can reveal much, tone and word choice will reflect flagrant emotion on the radio and in print. A tip for managing your emotions is to avoid “reacting” to questions and commentary. Remove the emotional trigger(s) and focus on providing high-quality responses.

4. Don’t give narratives. Interviews are an opportunity to share your insight with the media—in brief. That typically happens in pithy sound bites, not autobiographical sketches. Therefore, think about making your responses concise, yet impactful. If you’re unsure, play it safe and stick to the standout details. Leave the fodder out—completely out.

5. Listen. Really listen to each question and pause before answering. People often try to “wow” the interviewer with speed and brilliance. Of course, providing high-quality responses is always the goal. However, in the process, we often confuse speed with quality. Instead of powering out the first few words that comes to mind, take a beat. Make sure that you understand the question. Make sure that you have carefully organized your thoughts. Once you are clear on these two aspects, only then should you begin to verbalize answer. And, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification when necessary.

6. Polish your appearance. Whether you’re being featured on television, radio or in print media, make sure that you prepare to look your best. Good grooming is good business and helps to convey confidence in every medium. In addition, a polished appearance leaves a positive impression on your audience (if they can see you) and your interviewer if they cannot. This is not the day to take shortcuts and skimp on important grooming details. Whatever you need to do to, do it. It will be well worth it!

To your success in the spotlight!

Photo credit: By stockimages via


Karima Mariama-Arthur, Esq.Karima Mariama-Arthur is a corporate attorney and the Founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. For helpful tips on increasing confidence and solving performance challenges, connect with her on Facebook, and for a quick dose of #Leadership inspiration, follow her on Twitter, @wsrapport.

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