Media coverage can be a huge boon for your nonprofit organization. Getting a well-placed and well executed story can go a long way to building awareness, as well as trust for your mission. It can also be nerve-racking if you don’t have a lot of experience in front of a camera or talking to a reporter.
With these simple media interview tips, you can be confident that your next placement effectively gets the word out about your organization, mission, or event.
1. Master Your Talking Points
Before an interview, always write down the primary talking points that you want to drive home, along with 3-4 secondary “bonus” points. Your sole mission in the interview is to organically mention your primary talking points as tactfully as possible, and as many times as possible. It’s easy to get side tracked in an interview. Avoid talking in circles by knowing your messaging goals. Having strong talking points is the best way to keep those goals clear.
Primary talking points might range from strong calls to action (“Visit our website!”) to details about a fundraiser or event. Choose something to focus the interview on before it begins. If the interview is just to get the word out about your nonprofit, try whittling down your mission statement into a one sentence sound byte.
It’s also commonly stated that it takes 3-7 impressions of a message before it ‘sticks’ with a reader/listener, so don’t hesitate to repeat your primary points multiple times.
You might also want to have some secondary, “bonus,” points. These are smaller details that will ideally be included in the piece, but not a deal-breaker if they aren’t. Consider mentioning sponsors, tertiary events or activities, and minor details about your organization’s impact.
Just remember that your secondary talking points shouldn’t be addressed until you’ve driven home your primary talking points!
2. Prepare for the Format
Every format has its own benefits and downsides. You should always focus on ways to maximize the medium. For example, you should approach a TV interview differently than an interview for a newspaper. If it’s a print interview, you can afford to have longer answers and go more in-depth on your topic.
For a TV interview (recorded or live), you likely only have a few fleeting seconds to drive your point home and brevity is crucial. TV is built for 5-10 second sound bytes, so try to make sure that you keep your messaging about tweet-length. This makes it easy to clip in the editing room as well as easy to digest for a live audience.
3. Have a Conversation
Remember that you’re talking to a person, and people will always appreciate a conversational tone over an authoritarian one. You will humanize all of your talking points by simply treating the interview like a conversation between two people.
It’s easy to think of a media interview like a job interview where you’re on the spot, but that’s isn’t always the case. Treating an interview like a conversation also goes a long way to making you feel and look relaxed when the day comes. Just remember that everything you say is fair game. So while it might be easy to let the conversation flow to another topic, when you go “off script,” it’s much more common to make a mistake and say something you regret. Stick to your talking points and the topic at hand.
It’s also good to remember that part of a good conversation is eye contact! When there is a camera present, ALWAYS focus your attention on the interviewer and look them directly in the eyes. You don’t want to gaze off into the distance, and you definitely don’t want to look at the camera. Just engage with the person you are talking to as you would if you were at lunch with them.
4. Always Seize the Opportunity to Recap
Ninety-nine percent of the time, in a scheduled media interview, the interviewer will ask something along the lines of “was there anything else you wanted to mention?” As a communicator, this opportunity should make your mouth water. This question is the chance to put a bow on everything you were trying to cover in your interview as well as anything you may have missed.
Always take this opportunity to recap your primary talking points, even though your nerves might be telling you to be done with the uncomfortable situation. I’ve personally found that the last few seconds of the interview are where the clips are most likely to be taken from, since the newsrooms are looking to get the “who/when/where” in the segment as succinctly as possible.
More Quick Interview Tips for Nonprofit Marketers
Here are a few additional tips to help you feel comfortable in a media interview.
- Talk slower and louder than you think you should. Nervous energy typically makes people talk quickly and quietly.
- Be aware of your filler noises. It’s easy to stumble around saying “um” or “like.” Focus on being deliberate with your words.
- Try to not fidget. It might feel uncomfortably still when you’re talking, but that’s just your nerves. Stay still and project confidence!
- Keep your area distraction free. We know your friends and coworkers want to watch your big moment, but encourage them to be out of your line-of-sight during the interview. Seeing people you know watching you intensely is distracting and often unsettling.
Follow these steps, and keep our quick tips in mind, and you can be sure that your next interview will enhance your nonprofit’s mission and presence in the community.
Do you have more interview tips to share? Let us know in the comments.