How Journalists Work – Understanding your interviewer’s job allows you to get your message across
The most important goal in an interview is getting your message across. Learning to deal with the media in interviews increases the effectiveness in communicating your key messages. To do this it’s important to try to understand how journalists work. The nature of their work greatly affects your key messages.
Journalists are professionally trained. Most of them have degrees in journalism or related fields. They usually have fantastic communication skills. However, they are not experts in every subject that they are covering. That’s why they rely on experts like you to provide them with necessary information.
The Journalist’s World
Reporters work in a very competitive and fast paced environment. They must provide their stories in a short period of time. The final decision on which story will be published falls in print with the editors, or in TV/Radio with the directors and producers. Most of the time, each journalist is competing with other reporters for top billing or to even make it into the paper or show in the first place.
A Journalist’s purpose is to gain an understanding of an issue by collecting relevant data and facts. To support their conclusions they will need quotes from their interviewee. Therefore, be very cautious when they ask you to be quoted. Remember that they are human beings too. They will have preconceived notions about the issues they are covering. Never give quotes on issues that you wouldn’t like to see your name associated with in the national press.
Journalists and their Deadlines
In the era of 24 hour news and falling budgets in journalists needs to produce a lot more stories than they used to ten or twenty years ago. They work fast. That’s why if information you provided does not appear in the story don’t assume that the reporter ignored what you said. They simply don’t have enough time to include everything.
The possible exceptions to this rule are journalists working on a monthly publication like a magazine or a journalist making a long form documentary. They might have months or even years to research an issue. However that working practice is becoming increasingly rare.
Before going into an interview remember to:
- Define Your Message– Remember that there is only one reason for the interview and that’s to communicate your message.
- Never take a Cold Call – Deadlines are tight for most reporters and news is valuable when it’s fresh. However, always remember that you have a credibility and a reputation to protect. Check with the reporter on the nature of the interview and ask to call them back later to give yourself a chance to think.
- Ask Questions– Get familiar with the reporter’s questions and the subject of his interview. It’s also advisable to know the duration of the interview. Before the interview you must prepare your message with utmost clarity. You can ask the reporter these questions:
- “What’s your deadline?”
- “What do you need from me?”
- “Who have you talked to so far?”
- “Just so I don’t give you old news, what information do you already have?”
Take every interview as an avenue for you to convey your message to your target audience. Do your homework and control the show!
Do you have a media interview coming up? Downloading our free Media Interview Preparation Template will really help you focus your thoughts and get you prepared for the interview. Filling it in should take about 10 minutes. If you complete it and return it to us, we will be happy to get back to you ASAP with bespoke tips to help you make the very best impression possible. This is a totally free service.
Master these communication skills along with many others in First Take’s media training sessions