Media Interview Tips from a Former Journalist

By Michelle Noteboom, Senior Content & Account Director

Media interviews can be quite fun – or they can be a disaster if the interviewee is not adequately prepared. Over the years I have interviewed dozens of CEOs, CIOs, and clinicians while writing for The Health Care Blog, Health IT News, HIStalk, and other publications. Fortunately, most of the subjects did a great job, though there were a few that left something to be desired.

I recall one CEO who took 12 minutes to answer the first question. Well, he actually answered the question in under a minute; he then spent an additional 11 minutes sharing every talking point he ever memorized about the company and its products. It felt more like a brain dump than an interview.

Then there was the CIO who put me on hold three times during the interview because people kept walking into her office to ask her questions. Her time was clearly more important than mine – in her mind, anyway.

Now that I am with Amendola, I’ve hung up my journalist fedora. Rather than conducting interviews, my role includes helping clients prep for their media interviews. While I am well aware that many people don’t see the need for prepping in advance, the journalist in me is quite sure that a little upfront preparation can make the difference between a fun and informative interview and one that leaves both the interviewer and interviewee shaking their heads. With that in mind, here are a few interview prep tips to consider:

Know the publication. Spend some time checking out the publication and understand the audience. If the readers are mostly C-level execs in health systems, there’s no need to explain what an ACO is. On the other hand, if an article is for a mainstream publication, avoid using a bunch of acronyms and industry buzz words.

Talking points vs. talking head. Explain your product or service and its value proposition very clearly and succinctly. Talking points are great but they should not keep you from expressing your personality and passions. Use your own words, share your personal story, and include interesting analogies to avoid sounding like an over-rehearsed and insincere talking head.

Chuck the jargon and marketing-speak. An interview is not a commercial. Again–be sincere and real.

Don’t multi-task. Here are a few things you should not do while being interviewed, especially if the interview is over the phone: drive a car, check your email, or welcome somebody into your office to ask a quick question. The more present you are, the better you will sound.

Logistics. Ideally you should be in a quiet place free of ambient noise. Also, a landline is best. Avoid using a speakerphone or blue tooth and do ask the interviewer if he/she can hear you okay. It’s also okay to ask the interviewer if you are being recorded – and if you are not, your interviewer will love you for talking a bit slower. Be on time because, just like you, the journalist probably has other time commitments.

One last tip: it’s best not to lose your cool like this gentleman!

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