Media Interview Training
The media is a powerful tool for 1) raising awareness about issues that are important to us, 2) demanding accountability from those responsible, and 3) driving the action we want to see.
Reporters may come into an interview with their questions set, but we should also come in with our narrative set.
It's YOUR narrative to shape, YOUR voice and community, YOUR story to tell. This resource is about how, in media interviews, we can take the ball back. How do we tell the story we want to tell when talking to media?
Let's look at some tips below. Click here to download a mobile-friendly TIP SHEET to save for use later!
Questions about anything on this page? Please send an email to [email protected]
Before the Interview
Tip 1: Ask the reporter what topics they plan to ask you about.
They probably won’t give you a list of specific questions, but they can tell you the general topics.
You can say: “Could you please share the topics you’re going to ask me about so I can thoughtfully prepare?”
Tip 2: Imagine, prep, practice.
Imagine all the questions the reporter could ask you. Then imagine yourself talking about what you want to talk about.
Ask yourself: What do you hope to accomplish by doing this interview? Hold someone accountable? Advocate for solutions? Talk about the power of your community? All of the above?
Make a short list of things you want to make sure you mention. Practice how to bring them up.
Tip 3: Review these tips before the interview so you have them fresh in your mind.
During the Interview
Tip 4: Turn a needs-based question into an strengths-based answer.
If they ask a question that is based on our needs or struggle, we can answer as honestly as we’d like about our experiences… AND in that same answer, we can reframe it to be strengths-focused.
Reporter: How is the rising cost of living affecting you and your family right now?
You: My family has certainly had to make sacrifices, just like many hard-working folks. But the people in my Overtown community have never taken hits lying down. We’ve always worked hard to protect and improve what’s ours. I’m part of a group called Overtown Community Champions, and we’re taking matters into our own hands. So even though it’s tough right now, I’m inspired by the work we’re doing to demand fair treatment and change.
Tip 5: Use the interview to shine the spotlight on those responsible. AKA, call them out!
If they ask more questions about needs/challenges, you can answer honestly and still bring it back to your priorities here, such as talking about who is responsible.
Who is it that needs to take action here? Who is it that should be held accountable? What do we want them to do? Call them out respectfully. We don’t want to lose credibility by coming in too hot.
Our voices have power and we are using that power to demand accountability.
Tip 6: Use your ‘Off the Record’ power.
Did you know you can tell a reporter that something you say is off the record? Both parties must agree, but by all standards of ethical journalism, a reporter has to honor your request to be off the record. Otherwise, they could get in trouble with their supervisors and news organizations.
Why would you share something that’s “off the record” with a reporter? For example, if you want to give them an “inside scoop” about something you want them to investigate further, but you don’t want your name to be attached to it. Or maybe you want to give them a clear picture of something that’s going on with you or your community, but you don’t want them to reveal those details or your name.
Tip 7: Use your ‘Scratch That Part’ power.
If something doesn’t come out the way you wanted, you can tell them to scratch what you previously said. Ask them if you can repeat it in a different way, and ask them to use the new statement instead.
When the Interview is Over
Tip 8: Ask them what quotes, details, or stories they're going to use from you.
They can’t show you the whole story. But if you ask them, they can and should tell you what details about you they’re going to include.
You can say: “Could you please tell me what specific stories and details about me you plan to include? There may be something personal about me in there that I don’t want to be in the news.”
Tip 9: Ask them to send you the link to the story once it comes out.
They should already have your contact info, so they can send you the story when it’s out.
Most journalists will agree to this because they’re grateful that you helped them with their article or segment.
Once the News Story is Out
Tip 10: Ask for corrections if they get something wrong about you.
Corrections are “basic journalistic hygiene." If a reporter gets something wrong about you or what you said, you can ask them to run a correction. Even if it’s a TV or radio segment, they can add the correction to the top of the web page where that story lives.
If you have the reporter’s contact, you can ask them directly via phone and/or email (both are recommended). If they don’t answer, you can usually find on Google how to report an error or submit a correction to that specific news organization. Call and email the news desk!