Have an interview? Here are some tips

The Virginia Tech Media Relations team is here to help faculty and campus newsmakers prepare for the exciting opportunity that is a media interview. 

We encourage those who may appear in the news to contact us before being interviewed, and to consider the following tips:

  1. Know your audience. Consider who will be reading, listening to, or watching your interview. Make certain your answers are tailored to address questions they might have.
  2. Determine your two to three key talking points, and practice in advance. Never go into an interview unprepared.
  3. Tell your story in conversational tones. Avoid jargon or technical language a general audience may not comprehend. 
  4. Consider the tough questions you might be asked in advance, and know how you might respond.
  5. Reporters will always want to know the who, what, where, when, and why.  Make certain you can answer those questions about your topic.
  6. Interviews given over the phone allow you the added advantage of having your notes in front of you.
  7. Always assume all parts of your interview are “on the record.” Once the interview ends, be careful about relaxing and saying something that might be used in the story.
  8. If you don’t understand the question, feel free to ask for a clarification.
  9. If needed, take a breath before responding to ensure you are speaking slowly and calmly.
  10. Try working "Virginia Tech" into your answers where possible without making it seemed forced. For example, instead of saying, "the study we did looked at...," try saying, "the study we did here at Virginia Tech looked at..."
  11. If a question delves into an area where you have limited or no knowledge, simply indicate that’s not your area of expertise — or note that’s a question better asked of someone else. 
  12. Don’t feel the need to fill any silence. Once you’ve finished answering a question, it is okay to stop, even if it takes the reporter time to get to the next question.
  13. At the end of an interview, most reporters will ask whether there is anything else you would like to add.  Always be prepared with a statement that helps re-enforce your key talking points — or allows you to address an important point not previously touched on.   

On-camera interviews:

  1. Typically, you’ll always want to look at the reporter — not the camera — when being interviewed. The one exception might be in a studio interview, when the reporter or host is at a distant location. It's never a bad idea to ask the person interviewing you first if you have any questions.
  2. Always be certain in advance to know whether the interview is airing live or being recorded.  Also, will the interview be edited into soundbites, or air in its entirety?
  3. If the interview is about to be conducted in a noisy location, feel free to ask whether you can move to a better location. You want to be able to hear and be heard.
  4. Remember your public speaking class: speaking slower than you think you need to is often a good rule of thumb.
  5. Shorter, concise answers work better for media pick-up and use.
  6. Be conscious of what's behind you and even on you when you're being interviewed. Is there sensitive information on your computer screen? Are you wearing appropriate safety gear in a laboratory environment?
  7. Consider using a visual aid that might help you tell your story. 
  8. Before the interview starts, the reporter will normally ask you to say and spell your name and state your title, as it pertains to the topic you’ll be discussing. Remember that your full, official title may not always be the best way to describe your role in that story.
  9. Ask the reporter in advance whether it’s possible to start again if you stumble through an answer. 
  10. Show excitement about ideas that excite you!

Other tips:

Flagging emphasizes what you consider most important.

Types of flagging statements:

"The most important thing to remember is…"
"We know through research that…"
"What’s unique about our approach here at Virginia Tech is…"

Bridging helps you move from what may be a reporter’s notion of the story ahead of time to your message goals.

General bridging statements:

"That’s an interesting question, but the real opportunity is…"
"While ___________ is important, it’s also important to remember that…"
"Before we leave this subject, I want to add…"

At any point, feel free to contact the Media Relations team for assistance or guidance. We're here to help!