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2010-03-03 22:12:11

Profit by Publicity: Ensuring Successful Media Interviews


The news release you wrote and sent to your media contacts was well received, and reporters are starting to call you for interviews.  Now it’s time to take steps to ensure that the interviews are successful, your quotes are used and the stories are accurate.
While there are a lot of things you should do, there are many things you should not do. One of the most important things to avoid at all costs is to agree to do interviews with reporters right then and there. Instead, try to delay the interviews until you’ve had enough time (whether it’s a few minutes or a few hours) to properly prepare for them.  
You’d never think to show listings to clients without first learning something about their preferences and needs, would you? It’s the same principle when it comes to meeting with the media. The more you know before you enter interview situations, the better off you’ll be. You can also decide whether you even want to do the interviews in the first place.    
 Most reporters will understand it if you say you’re busy when they call, and can usually afford to wait for you to call them back in a few minutes for the interview. Take that time (or more if you can get it) to review the guidelines and suggestions on the following interview checklist. 

Interview Checklist
  • What is the topic and focus of the story? (Try to have the reporter narrow it down as much as possible.)
  • Can the reporter share with you the list of questions he or she plans to ask?
  • Based on the answers to the questions listed above, is this an interview that you really want to do or should agree to do?
  • Are you the best person to do this interview? If not, then refer the reporter to the appropriate individual in your company or to one of your colleagues.  
  • When does the reporter want to do the interview?
  • Can you call him/her back later for the interview?  

The Reporter 

  • For which news organization does the reporter work?
  • Who is their audience?  
  • How much time does the reporter need for the interview?
  • Have you sent the reporter relevant background information he/she needs prior to the interview, such as a copy of your news release, fact sheet or press kit? 
  • Has the reporter received and read the information you sent?
  • Who else is the reporter talking to for the story?

Do you have time to research other stories the reporter has done before you do the interview? The more you know about the reporter, the better prepared you’ll be.  

Your Message

  • What is the overarching message you want to communicate in the interview?
  • What are the three most important points you want to make?
  • Do you have the latest information about the topic?
  • Have you practiced your answers?
  • What visuals can you use to help show your story? 
General Interview Guidelines
  • Set a time limit on all interviews: 15-20 minutes for most interviews.
  •  Keep your answers short: 20-30 seconds for print interviews, 10-20 seconds for radio and television.


Anticipate all questions the reporter might ask: the good, the bad and the ugly.

  • Put yourself in the shoes of the reporter. If you were the journalist, what
  • questions would you ask? 
  • If the interview will be held in your office, make sure any papers or information you don’t want the reporter to see have been put safely away; let your colleagues know that a reporter will be in the office so they can act accordingly.
  • If the interview will be conducted over the phone, make sure there are no distracting noises that will break your concentration, or that may be picked up by the phone.

If the interview will be done online or through a series of exchanged e-mails or instant message, be sure to read the questions and proof your responses carefully before hitting the “send” button. This includes doing a spell check of your response and reading your answer aloud to see if it sounds as it looks. 

Edward Segal, RCE, is the author of the Profit by Publicity series of live and online classes, audiobook and how-to-reference guide for real estate agents and brokers.  Segal was the marketing strategies columnist for The Wall Street Journal’s , a PR consultant to more than 500 clients and press secretary to members of Congress.   He is now CEO of the Marin County Association of REALTORS® in San Rafael, Calif.  Visit his Web site at


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