PR Industry Trends

5 Steps to Nail Every Media Interview (Step 5: Practice – Out Loud!)

We’ve reached the final step in my five-step process for nailing every media interview. If you need a little refresher on how to “identify the money question and write the quote,” re-read step four on the Buzz Bin.


The primary purpose for step five is to address the wing-it challenged problem. In 20 years of training, I have yet to find someone who got worse with practice. So, if you really want to nail the interview, your best hope is to conduct the interview multiple times. The more you practice out loud, the better you will become.

Now, I’m sure some are asking, is it really necessary to practice out loud? The answer is absolutely. When I first entered the agency world, my colleagues used to think I was crazy when I would read my news releases out loud. You see, I came from the broadcast world where you quickly discover that what you write on paper doesn’t always come out of your mouth the same way. We don’t speak the way we write. If you don’t believe me, just read that business report on your desk out loud and tell me what you sound like. Boring, right? Another reason to practice out loud is because sometimes other people will write your messages, and the way they describe it just won’t flow from your lips.

Perhaps the most important reason you need to practice out loud is because that is where you work on the delivery of your messages. Original studies on verbal versus non-verbal communication show that the words we choose to communicate comprise a very small percent of the communications. The vast majority of communication is linked to the delivery of those words; the tone, pacing and inflection we put into our speech pattern. And yet, most of us spend the bulk of our time on the words and little time practicing how to deliver those words. When an actor goes on stage, do you believe they are thinking about the words or how they want to deliver those words? If you don’t practice out loud, you are once again relying on your wing-it abilities to effectively deliver the message in a fashion that will make it stand out. Most of us simply don’t have that skill.

It all boils down to this. When I work with a spokesperson, I tell them it’s a pass or fail grade. The quote is either on message or it’s not. I tell them, “if you want to improve your grade, you will follow this process.” Why? Because the process not only makes the job easier (how hard can it be when you only have three possible answers?), but it also forces you to practice multiple times along the way. When you write down the questions, you are hearing them for the first time. When you line them up with a key message, you are answering the question. When you work on your transitions you practice a third time, and when you practice out loud, you are practicing a fourth time. Improvement is inevitable when you have practiced four times.

You want to hear another little secret? A media interview is just like any other Q&A session. So, in reality, this will work for staff meetings, customer calls, presentations to the boss and even at home with the family. If you put it to use every day, nailing a media interview will be a piece of cake.

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About Brian Ellis:

Brian leads PadillaCRT's media and communication training consultancy. For more than a decade, he has coached corporate executives to become more effective communicators and presenters. As a former journalist, Brian offers a unique perspective on how the media operates during a crisis to such clients as Girl Scouts, Pfizer, Ford Motor Company, Atkins Corporation, The Federal Reserve, McNeil Specialty Pharmaceuticals, C.B. Fleet, Performance Food Group and Abbott Laboratories. His media training students are no strangers to national network programs such as ABC’s “Nightly News,” ABC’s “20/20,” NBC’s “Today Show,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” MSNBC and CNN. Prior to joining CRT/tanaka, Brian worked for 10 years as an Emmy Award-winning television news reporter, anchor and producer.

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