“No comment.”

“Well, off the record….”

“Our competitors are wrong because…”

Oh, the joy of media interviews. Few communications professionals have managed to avoid an unpleasant executive briefing where a client answers a reporter question with one of the dreaded responses listed above.

This situation can be especially cringe-worthy when it happens during a live segment and we have no other option but to watch in terror as a client fumbles through a response or just as bad, completely blanks. In a recent live TV interview, this was a reality for Kourtney Kardashian, who when asked a question from the host (remember: LIVE TV), froze and didn’t respond – seemingly looking to her PR rep to save the interview. The result? Well after watching the clip, you can see it makes for awkward television.

Fortunately, these situations are avoidable and as cliché as it might sound, it all starts with preparation. Here are some best practices to leverage when it comes to preparing for media interviews:

1.   Do your homework: It’s critical for clients to work with their communications team to understand the scope of the story, the reporter, and the outlet. All interviewees need to be familiar with who the reporter is and what they’re specifically looking to talk about during the briefing. Further, it’s important to note the reporter’s past interactions with the company, the reporter’s most recent stories, and certainly any relevant news cycles (ala the Kim Kardashian robbery) that could come up in the conversation.

2.   Key messages are critical: While communications teams will work with the reporter to understand the story they’re looking for, the reporter isn’t necessarily bound to that specific topic and can ask the subject anything. Fortunately, the communications team can help with crafting a few simple key messages to convey, and reinforce, during the interview.

3.   Bridge…the gaps: It can be stressful to be put on the spot, and in Kourtney Kardashian’s case, on live TV. However, this is where reinforcing those key messages comes into play so you can bridge to them when asked tough or off-topic questions. Some ways to bridge to a key message include answering the question using one of the following, and inserting a key message:

  • “What I’m here today to talk about is…”
  • “The important point is…”
  • “That has yet to be determined, but one thing that is certain is…”
  • “Where we should be really focused is…”
  • “Although I’m not able to answer that question, I think what we really should be talking about is…”

Ultimately, preparation is critical for any successful media engagement. By leveraging these initial media interview tips, it will ensure a smoother (read: not an awkward) engagement. 

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