Interview Tips - Getting Your Book Known

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    Interview tips

    We have some good relationships with radio shows worldwide, mainly in the US/UK. You can search the Contacts database using "Radio" in "Type" and select the "Category" most applicable to your book.

    • There are over 6000 talk-radio shows in the US alone, who are looking for guests every day. You may as well be one of them. Some producers will want to speak to you directly, to assess how suitable you and your message are for their audience. Some interviewers will want to read a copy of your book beforehand. The reach of each station/host depends.
    • Your publicist will contact a number of hosts in your initial PR. If we do get requests for interviews, the details will get entered as an “Activity” and an email with information will be sent to you.
    • Setting up interviews is labour-intensive. There is the issue of time zones, which can mean interviews being conducted late at night or early in the morning. Many stations request that the interviewee, you, call into the station at your own cost. Some use Skype, which is a better option and can be face to face.
    • There are two types of interview: pre-recorded – less pressure, as errors can be edited out; and live shows, which are just that.
    • It is often worthwhile preparing a list of 10 possible questions you would be happy to answer about your book. You can enter this onto the “Promotional Plans” section of the Marketing page.
    • When you have done an interview, always share a live link with your publicist, and share the show widely on your social-media links.
    • You can contact radio shows/hosts yourself at any time. Most will ask for a review copy of the book, a biography, 10 possible questions, and your online links.
    • Your story might be changed to fit the audience, or simply to sound more interesting. Don’t discuss anything that you don’t want to have publicized. Do not say “this is off the record” …it probably isn’t.

    Media Interviews (Courtesy of Ascot Media)


    • Define your agenda. Clarify your communication objective(s).
    • Determine how the interview might offer you the chance to make positive points or provide helpful information about your topic/issue/organization.
    • Write down and practice key message points in brief statements or bullet points.
    • Remove jargon or long explanations.
    • Have back-up data to support your points, if appropriate. Review facts and figure so you are comfortable discussing them.
    • Anticipate questions (easy, hard and terrible) and your responses. Practice with a colleague or in front of the mirror (yes, it looks silly, but it is worth it!). Are you planning to talk about the same thing the reporter expects to discuss?
    • Get to know the media outlet – what type of publication or program is it? Who is their target audience? What other media outlet is covering the story?
    • What is the interview format? Length? Live? Taped? Solo or multi-guests?
    • If you are part of a group, make sure everyone has the same message.
    • If you are meeting with more than one media outlet, make sure your message is consistent with each reporter.

    Interview Confirmation

    • The day before your interview, confirm date, time, place and anticipated length of interview.

    Arrival, Location and Pre-Interview

    • Allow plenty of time for the unexpected (no parking space, traffic, flood, etc).
    • Arrive at the media outlet 5–10 minutes early. Expect to wait.
    • If interview is at your office, be prepared early and have all calls and interruptions held. Turn off mobile phones.
    • If the interview is in your office, tidy up. Put away piles of papers and clutter.
    • Try not to be interviewed behind your desk as it creates a barrier between you and the reporter.
    • Pre-interviews – some reporters spend up to 30 minutes prior to an interview warming up the subject. Some spend 5 seconds. Take the opportunity to find out what the reporter is looking for and set the tone for the interview.
    • Ask when a story or article is going to be run.
    • Do not ask to pre-approve a story.

    General Tools, Techniques and Tips

    The goal of an interview is to communicate your key message to a public via the report and his/her media outlet. It is not to educate the reporter or show how much you know. The key then is to focus on your key message and utilize techniques to keep the interview on those messages. Here are some tried-and-true interview techniques:

    • Bridging: you will often be asked questions that do not get to the points you wish to make or that you do not wish to answer. You can use bridging to turn the question to your points. Listen for the larger issue behind the question and find the connection to your issue. Here are some examples: "…Yes, but that speaks to a bigger point…" or "…I think what you are really asking is…"
    • Blocking: sometimes a reporter asks you a question you don’t want to answer. If it is a policy issue not to discuss certain issues, it is fair to say "It is our policy not to discuss XYZ…" and then bridge on to what you want to talk about. But if you cannot answer a question, explain why. “No comment” works for the White House, but not for most of the world…
    • A = Q + 1: a simple and effective way to have every question become an opportunity to make your point is to try and answer a question with a very brief answer and then one of your key messages. This also allows you to repeat a few key messages: "(short answer to question) which supports our goal of…"
    • Flagging or Headlining: when trying to make your key messages clear quickly in an interview, you start with the conclusions and end with the explanations – you "flag" or "headline" the issue. This is especially important for broadcast interviews. You can simply make your point and then explain it, or you can draw attention by saying phrases such as: "The most important issue/fact is…"; "What we really want to make clear is that…"
    • Enumerating Points: when you have a complicated message in a broadcast interview, you can carefully extend the sound byte by enumerating your points, making it difficult for the media outlet to separate them. For example: "There are three things every person planning a pregnancy should know: 1) take folic acid prior to trying to conceive, 2) abstain from drugs and alcohol and 3) talk to your doctor."
    • Pauses/Quiet/Knowing When to Stop! Do not continue talking after you make your point. Use single, clear sentences to make your point. Reporters often leave a space of silence to try and draw unintended remarks out of guests trying to "fill the space." You do not have to!
    • Avoid Getting Trapped: Keep calm. Leave pig wrestling to the pigs. They always end up looking like pigs… Do not repeat wrong information, even if offered by the reporter. It could be the sound byte that is used. Instead, offer the correction framed not as a denial, but as a statement about the facts you want to present. If a reporter provides incorrect information, it is ok to correct them with "That is not true… the facts are that…" If you do not have or know the information requested, do not pretend you do. Offer to get back to the reporter with the information. Never say something you do not want to appear in print or be aired. Do not go "off the record" unless you have good reason to trust the reporter. Some say there is no real "off the record." If you make an error, correct yourself as soon as possible.

    Body Language during Interviews

    • Eye Contact: Make eye contact with the reporter. If on camera, do not stare at the camera. If you are being interviewed at a remote location and the interviewer is in the studio or somewhere else, DO look straight into the camera. Do not be distracted by activity around you.
    • Posture: Sit up straight but not like a stick! It helps to keep your feet on the floor. If you have a choice, decline to be interviewed while sitting on a couch. It is hard to sit up straight and you are often lower than your interviewer.
    • Do not fidget: If standing, put one foot slightly in front of the other to avoid swaying. Find a place to rest your hands and keep them there – folded in your lap works… use gestures sparingly and naturally. Watch the nodding. Some people tend to nod to acknowledge the reporter’s comments or questions, but it may be interpreted as agreement.

    Wrapping it up

    • Leave time for questions.
    • At the end of the interview, recap any commitments to get the reporter additional information and tell them when they can expect you to get back to them.
    • Leave behind your press materials. Make sure they include your contact information for follow-up questions.
    • If you are not doing a live show, ask when the piece will run or air. If there were no plans to run a story before the interview, ask if the reporter plans to write a story.
    • Follow up on any materials or information you promise in a timely manner.

    Print Tips

    • Some print reporters record their interviews. Be prepared to have your exact phrase transcribed. At the same time, be prepared to have it incorrectly transcribed!

    Broadcast Tips in General

    • Raise your voice slightly for key points and emphasis.
    • Watch getting high-pitched and "screechy" if you are the excitable type.
    • Ask the reporter what they like to be called and call them by that name. First-name basis can be helpful.

    Radio/Podcasting Tips

    • Use your voice to create variety and interest – no monotones.
    • Feel free to have notes of key points, facts, etc.
    • Paint a word picture. Remember that old adage, "see it on the radio." Use examples and stories to "illustrate" your point.
    • Call-Ins: Do not let angry or hostile callers fluster you. Always take the high road.
    • Avoid ums, ahs and "verbal nodding.”

    TV Tips

    • Dress appropriately. Mostly, that means dress conservatively, but there are exceptions. Avoid short skirts, white shirts or loud ties if you are trying to come across as credible. Solid, dark colors work well.
    • Button coats if standing; unbutton if sitting.
    • Studios are cold with the lights off – ovens when the lights are on. Dress in mid-weight clothing.
    • Avoid shiny or dangly jewellery. Watch for jewellery banging against lavaliere mics.
    • If you have the choice, choose contacts over glasses.
    • If offered makeup, accept it! Men, 5 o’clock shadow shows. Women, makeup should be only slightly heavier than normally worn.

    Phone Tips

    • When called without prior notice, find out if the reporter is on deadline. If they are not, ask if you can call them back. Set an acceptable time to allow yourself to prepare. Even 5 minutes can help improve your delivery.
    • Try and call from a quiet place or in a room where you can close the door. Outside noises can disturb the interview and are especially problematic when the interview is being recorded.
    • Use your notes – no one is watching!!
    • Ask the reporter for feedback to ensure they understand you. With no eye contact or body language, this can prevent misunderstanding.

    Giving an Interview for Radio

    If you will be giving an interview for radio broadcast, the following tips can help you prepare for it, and take advantage of radio’s strengths, while avoiding its pitfalls:

    • Prepare: find out as much as you can about the program on which you are being asked to appear. Is it live or taped? What angle are they taking? What are they expecting from you? What questions do you think they might ask? Is the audience completely general, or specialized? What are your key messages? Think about the points you could make which are most interesting, useful, and relevant to the appropriate audience. Think of a quote you could deliver.
    • Fill out the Interview Prep Form.
    • Role-play in advance.
    • When preparing for the interview, think about your key messages. During the interview, use every opportunity to re-state these messages
    • Speak conversationally: Think about the way you talk in your work life. Do you normally use a lot of technical terms and other jargon? A general audience won’t understand you and, probably, neither will the interviewer. Avoid too many facts and figures as your audience will never remember them and will most likely tune out.
    • Find creative ways of explaining something. Imagine that you are chatting with someone who is perfectly intelligent, but who simply doesn’t know anything at all about your subject. How would you explain it to them without being patronizing?
    • Do not write down answers ahead of time. However, you might want to use “prompt words” printed in an easy-to-read font.
    • Make the medium work for you: when you are preparing for a radio interview, think of ways to enhance and work with the special qualities of radio, e.g. paint verbal pictures, tell short anecdotes that illustrate a point, use appropriate emotion. Think of the “story” you want to tell.
    • Prepare some “sound bites”: few radio “sound bites” are more than 20 seconds long. Develop and rehearse some key quotes in advance that will fit this format.
    • Sit comfortably: avoid tight-fitting clothes. Keep your feet flat on the floor and sit in a comfortable chair. Avoid chairs with wheels or chairs that rock.
    • Avoid nervous habits: avoid habits such as “ums” and “ahs” or clearing your throat. Avoid paper shuffling. Keep a glass of water on-hand.
    • Avoid saying “No comment”: The viewer or listener is likely to jump to the conclusion that you are evasive or untrustworthy. Find a way to answer the question using positive messages. Tell the truth. If you don’t know the answer, say so – never guess at an answer.
    • Avoid confrontation: Be honest and friendly. Even if it feels like you are under attack, don’t lose your temper, and don’t sound defensive. Stick to positive statements, and never resort to negative statements or critical attacks. Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes. Remind yourself that reporters are often looking for the sexy, juicy angle. The story you want to tell may not be the story they want to tell.
    • Evaluate yourself: no interview is ever perfect. It’s good to evaluate your performance so you continue to improve. Ask your friends and colleagues for feedback—ask them what they thought your main point was and compare that to the key message(s) you intended to project. Did you sound conversational?
    • Finally… remember this: two authors appeared on Oprah. The first one hit the #1 spot on the NY Times best-seller list and the other sold just a few hundred books. Why? …Because the first one remembered why he was there in the first place – to sell his book! He remembered to plug his book often throughout the entire segment. The other author was so wrapped up in the limelight that he completely forgot to mention his book!

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