How to show up well prepared for an interview

April 18, 2023

3 minute read

How to show up well prepared for an interview

Great media training goes beyond what to do during an interview. It also teaches you what you can do before and after the interview for the best possible outcome.

*Pling* — a new email enters your inbox. Unexpectedly, it’s a request for an interview from a journalist from a grand national publication wanting to ask about your company’s latest annual report. 

Maybe you haven’t been interviewed as the face of the company before. Maybe you don’t completely trust journalists because of unfortunate stories you have heard from others.

Naturally, you start getting nervous. What if they raise critical questions? What if you end up saying something you’re not supposed to? 

What you need is someone to rehearse you, also aptly named ‘media training’.

What is media training?

Qualified media training gives you the tools to handle an unexpected call from a journalist, the interview situation, and your ability to influence a story. 

Great media training goes beyond what to do during an interview. It also teaches you what you can do before and after the interview for the best possible outcome, i.e.:

  • What do you do when a journalist calls you for an interview? 
  • How do you best prepare for an interview?
  • How do you best represent your brand during an interview? 
  • How do you ensure that your story is told the right way?
  • How do you stay in the loop with the journalist after the interview? 

Why is media training important?

Why can’t you just wing the interview? How different is an interview from a regular conversation with a human being really?

To put it simply: Once you get the chance to tell your story through the press, it’s best to get it right. Media training helps you develop public speaking and general communications skills that, in return, help you communicate your brand’s key messages to your target audience in an impactful way.

Further, making a great first impression during a public appearance makes it more likely for the media to ask you to contribute your thoughts and opinions at a later point in time. 

In case you’re downright scared of doing an interview, media training can help you gain confidence, demystify the situation, and rehearse your narrative.

What are the components of media training at COPUS? 

When we media train at COPUS, we focus on giving you an understanding of the media landscape and how journalists work. Understanding why a journalist acts as they do makes it easier for you to know how to handle certain situations. 

Then we take you through what to do before, during, and after an interview has occurred. 

Overall, you can expect to learn about: 

  • How journalists work and what their roles in society are
  • How to manage inbound interview requests
  • How to prepare for the interview — every time
  • The interview basics: Body language, speech, and storytelling
  • Your public speaking strengths and areas for improvement
  • The basics of choosing a narrative
  • What you can do after the interview

Five tips: How to show up well-prepared for an interview 

Do you have an interview planned soon that you need to prepare for? Look no further — here are five quick tips on how to show up prepared:

01: Research the journalist and media

It’s very basic, but also extremely important that you know who you are talking to. 

In your preparation for the interview, make sure that you understand how the publication has covered your company or industry before. And ensure that you understand how the journalist tends to work and how they angle their stories. If the journalist has previously criticised your industry or uncovered some hard truths, you will want to know about it in order to prepare for tough questions. 

02: What will the journalist ask about?

Knowing what the journalist will ask about is the best way to prepare for an interview. 

To begin with, you can ask the journalist if they have prepared any questions and if they are willing to share them with you beforehand. Most often, however, the journalist isn’t interested in sharing their questions with you in order to avoid scripted answers. In that case, you can instead ask how they are planning to angle the story and what type of information they will be looking for in the interview.

Then you can make up a few questions yourself and prepare and rehearse your answers. Of course you won’t be able to prepare for the exact questions, the journalist will ask, but this is a great way of forcing yourself to think of different scenarios that might happen during the interview, and practice how you will react to them.

03: Prepare your narrative and rehearse it

You probably have a story that you want to tell — and now is the time to do so. But if you want people to listen to it you need to make it brief and relatable. 

First, think about what the readers of the publication would likely find interesting. 

Then find ways of briefly telling your story in a compelling manner. Practicing parts of the narrative as “punchlines” or “sound bites” also makes it easier for the journalist to write great quotes. 

Finally, make sure that you leave out unnecessary industry lingo if your interview is with a publication from outside the industry. Find ways of explaining what you do in a way that makes sense to anyone. As the infamous Michael Scott would say: “Explain it to me like I’m a 5-year-old”. 

04: Stay open to expanding the topic

This one is fairly simple. It’s simply no fun talking to someone who is only interested in answering very specific questions.

Show that you are open to talking about more than just a few topics that you have prepared for. That makes it more likely that the journalist wants to set up an interview with you later on.

It’s still important to keep your eye on the ball and answer a question directly when you are able to. But stay open to new questions and subjects that you haven’t prepared for or the journalist hasn’t briefed you on.

05: Focus on what you can say and want to say — not what you cannot say

It’s important to know if there are things you can’t talk about, so make sure to make a list of things you can’t comment on. Talk about it internally and write it down on a piece of paper.

Nevertheless, it’s rarely helpful to remind yourself of the risk of saying the wrong things. It often makes you nervous and makes you lose focus from the narrative you want to share.

Now that you have your list of don’ts, focus on staying positive and reminding yourself of the narrative you look forward to sharing. 

If a question that you can’t answer comes up, politely let the journalist know that you would like to look into sharing the requested information sometime after the interview.