Water Hub Blog

Tips: Mastering the art of interview basics

Text: Mastering the Art of Media Interviews. Image: Hands holding recorders in front of a person delivering remarks.

Getting ready for an interview can be nerve-wracking. (For those of you who thrive in the interview environment — we salute and respect you!) But, on and off-camera confidence doesn’t have to be elusive. In our latest virtual workshop, we talked about practice, preparation, and more media interview tips. 

What makes a compelling message?

We’re devotees of the Opportunity Agenda’s VPSA (Value, Problem, Solution, Action) model for message development. To get heads nodding and hearts pumping, it’s important to identify the values you want to tap into. Are you talking about health, community, security, or opportunity? How does the problem threaten that shared value?

A solution is what fixes the problem you have identified earlier and motivates your audience to take action

Media interview tips. Screen capture of a tweet: What makes a good message?
Tweet showing text With bipartisan infra bill passing, 15 states can fully replace lead pipes. If BBB Act passes, another 9 states can fully fund lead pipe replacement. There is serious $$$ in these bills to eliminate/reduce lead in water.

We love this example from Water Hub advisory group member, Sri Vedachalam. In this tweet, Dr. Vedachalam translates big dollar amounts in the infrastructure bills into easy-to-understand, real-world impacts.

Media Interview Tips

Before

  • Gather intel. Whether you’re pitching a story or fielding an incoming request, ask yourself some questions: What’s the reporter’s beat, who else are they talking to, and who is their audience?
  • Prep and practice. Write out your key points, soundbites, and supporting facts. You can anticipate questions that are likely to come up and draft a Q&A. Hot tip: It’s really difficult to remember lots of facts and figures, so we recommend picking one statistic that clearly supports your point and sticking to it. 
  • You’re always on the record. There’s a level of small talk and connection that is appreciated and appropriate. Just remember, unless you and a reporter have both agreed, you’re always on the record. Even in email.

During

  • Breathe. Take a beat before speaking. Flustered? Stop, breathe, and start again. Give yourself some grace. Reporters want a clear quote just as much as you do. 
  • Don’t fear silence. A classic interview technique is to let some silence linger to see what else a subject will say. If you’ve delivered a succinct, clear answer, fight the urge to ramble. Get comfortable with a little silence until the next question.
  • It’s OK to say, “I don’t know.” We gain credibility in drops and lose it in buckets. It’s quite alright not to know everything off the top of your head. Write down the question and follow up or suggest a colleague who might be better suited to answer.

Staying on Message

We’ve all heard politicians deflect and recite talking points. It comes across pretty phony. We shared a formula to answer tough questions while staying on message without losing credibility. In this scenario, we used a common question pitting the environment against the economy.

Media interview tips slide text: how to answer "tough" questions
  • Acknowledge. This doesn’t mean repeating the premise of the question in your answer. You don’t need to give a bad argument more airtime. Acknowledging a question can be as simple as saying, “That’s one point of view.”
  • Pivot/Bridge. The pivot is a transitional phrase to get you from the question back to your main message in a natural way. This could be something like, “What we’re hearing from our community is…” Practicing this technique will help you come across as confident in your conversation without sounding stilted.
  • Deliver your message. Now you’re ready to get back on message.

After

  • Say thanks! Send over material you promised or follow up on questions you weren’t able to answer. 
  • Share and tag. Ask for the story link, share, tag the reporter and their outlet on social media.

Thanks to all who joined us in person for this webinar!

You can also download the presentation slides. Have more questions or want support prepping for an interview? Get in touch with the Water Hub team! We’re happy to help.

To stay in the loop for trainings like this and more, sign up for our newsletterThe Water Cooler.

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