How to be interviewed by a journalist

Person holding multiple microphones and sound recording devices.

Hopefully, there is going to come a time when the positive buzz around you and your business attract the interest of the media. The local newspaper wants to do an interview, perhaps, or the regional television news programme wants to interview you for a feature segment. Great news – but before you open your mouth there are a few top tips for how to get it right:

1. Do your homework

Know the key facts about your business, and if you think you will forget them, write them down on a piece of paper, so you have them to hand. Obvious questions you are likely to be asked in which numbers are required are: how much money did you start the business with; what is your expected turnover for the current year; how many employees do you have; how much investment did a private investor/business angel/venture capital put into the business, and in return for what sized stake; how much do your products sell for, how many do you sell of your best-selling product each year. If you don’t feel comfortable disclosing some of this information, say so, and don’t.

2. Find a name

If you know the name of the journalist who will be interviewing you, Google them and find out what sort of articles they usually write to give you some idea of what to expect.

3. Don’t assume the journalist knows anything about your business

For a start, they may have only just found out they were doing the interview. At the start of the conversation give them a quick summary, just a couple of sentences, of the business – when you set it up and why; what it does and where the company is at now.

4. Answer each question openly and honestly

If you don’t know the answer to something do not try and guess, simply make a note of the question and tell the journalist you will get straight back to them with the answer.

5. Don’t be intimidated by long pauses

When you have finished what you want to say in answer to a question, be quiet and don’t say anything else. Whatever you do, do not feel compelled to keep talking simply to fill the silence as you will end up waffling and saying things you hadn’t planned to.

6. Be proactive

If there is something you’d like to publicise – a new product coming out shortly, for example, or a new store you are opening, then tell them. They are not mind readers. Also have a few interesting anecdotes to tell – the fact you started your business in the shed at the bottom of the garden, for example, or that you give your employees their birthdays off.

7. Know your product

Make sure you know your product or service inside out – and that you use it yourself. If you own a restaurant, for example, be prepared to be able to say when you last ate there. It will look really bad if you can’t remember.

8. Hidden agenda

Do not be defensive or assume that the journalist has a hidden agenda. For the most part – and particularly if it is for a local newspaper or trade paper – the journalist is simply trying to find out the most interesting bits about you and your business in order to write an interesting piece.

9. Formality and jokes

Equally, do not try to crack jokes and do not become over familiar with the journalist. Both are likely to backfire. You are not there to be friends; you are both there to do a job.

10. Location

If you are being interviewed face to face, think very carefully about the venue you choose for it to take place in and what it might say about you and your business. If you have a smart office that is fine – provided you brief other members of staff to stay out of the way – but be particularly wary about being interviewed at home because then everything from ballroom dancing trophies on the mantelpiece to the piles of dirty cutlery in the sink are at risk of being included in the article. Beware too that feature writers often ask to go to the toilet, as it gives them a chance to see the rest of the house on the way.

11. Live?

If you are being interviewed for television, find out whether it will be going out live – i.e., as you are actually doing it – or whether it is being recorded to be edited and shown later. And never look directly into the camera – direct your answers to the interviewer instead.

12. Be mindful

At the end, NEVER EVER say, was that alright? Or, did I do ok? And never make a throwaway joke comment. Remember that even if the journalist has put away their notepad and tape recorder and is making small talk, while they are still in the room – or on the phone – YOU ARE STILL BEING INTERVIEWED. Your unguarded comments could well end up being the headline. Ends.