The Harbinger Group

Media Training: A Guide to Successful Interviews

Media training is a pivotal type of communication training that can make or break your company’s professional image. Whether it is the messages you want to convey to your customer base or the coverage you hope to attract from the media, properly preparing your spokespeople for their interviews is crucial.

Here are six tips to help you succeed in media interviews:

1.  Build Your Story

The foundation of a successful interview lies in your ability to deliver your central message efficiently. Interviewees should be prepared with 3-4 supporting messages prior to the interview and know how to bring each message to life. To do this, they will have to have a deep understanding of their audience and craft multiple examples that support their story and are meaningful to their audience. 

To begin this process you should create a message map, which is a diagram that helps you build out your main messaging, supporting messaging, and examples that help back up each key message. 

For this example, we will call our company EcoTechCycle, whose mission is to solve the problem of the amount of electric waste being generated worldwide. For further context, it was reported that in 2020, there were 53.6 million metric tonnes (Mt) of electronic waste, and by 2030, there is estimated to be 74 million Mt. Our client EchoTechCycle has an interview lined up where they will discuss the solutions they offer and the progress they have made in reducing e-waste.

Media Training: A Guide to Successful Interviews
2. Understand Interview Fundamentals

To make a lasting impact in an interview, it is essential to understand the factors that drive media coverage. Media outlets are constantly seeking stories that will captivate their audience and generate interest. When preparing your message, consider the following key elements:

By providing accurate, useful, and timely information that incorporates these elements, you can increase the likelihood of your message connecting with the media’s target audience. This, in turn, will help you gain valuable coverage and raise awareness of your message. Remember, the media’s primary goal is to inform and engage their readers, listeners, or viewers, so tailor your message accordingly.

 

3. Interview Power Techniques

In media training, “hooking” involves strategically guiding the conversation to create opportunities to share your key messages. After answering an initial question, you can bridge to a related point you want to emphasize by using phrases like, “It’s important to note that…” or “Another key aspect is…” This allows you to provide additional context, showcase your expertise, and reinforce your main talking points.

For example, if asked about recent successes, you could respond with, “Our team has achieved significant milestones this quarter. One of the key factors contributing to our success has been our investment in innovative technologies.” This “hook” creates a natural opening to discuss your company’s forward-thinking approach and the specific technologies you’ve implemented.

“Bridging” is moving from one aspect of an issue to another, no matter what the question is. This helps to keep on track with the delivery of your key messages. Bridging is used in scenarios such as: 

  • If the interviewer asks a question that is not directly related to your main message.
  • When you want to emphasize a specific aspect of your message
  • When you are asked a negative or challenging question
  • When you need to provide context or background information 
  • In moments where you want to reinforce your main message

 

Some examples of bridging phrases include:

  • “That’s an important point, but it’s also crucial to consider…”
  • “While that’s a valid concern, I’d like to emphasize…”
  • “Let me put this into perspective…”
  • “The real issue here is…”

“Flagging” helps your audience remember your message by securing their attention through verbal cues. You should use flagging when: 

  • Introducing a key theme or message
  • When sharing important data or statistics
  • When providing a call to action (CTA)
  • When addressing a common misconception

 

Always emphasize what you need them to remember most with phrases like

  • “Three key things to know are…” 
  • “The most important aspect is…”
  • It’s a common misconception that… In reality…”
  • “Here’s a crucial statistic that really drives home the point.
  • “I want to draw your attention to this key finding…”
  • The most important step we can all take is…”
  • “I strongly urge everyone to…”
  • “I want to set the record straight on this point…”

“Compare and contrast” uses two different situations and approaches to make the one you’re explaining clearer. To do this, your client can provide an example of work they do within their organization and then emphasize how other companies may not be doing the same thing. 

 

An example includes:

Interview question: “What makes your eco-friendly cleaning products stand out in the market?”

Response: “Our eco-friendly cleaning products are designed to be highly effective while minimizing environmental impact. Many traditional cleaning products rely on harsh chemicals that can be harmful to both people and the planet. In contrast, our products use plant-based, biodegradable ingredients that are gentle yet powerful.

For example, our all-purpose cleaner is made with a blend of natural enzymes and essential oils that break down dirt and grime without leaving behind toxic residues. This approach not only ensures a deep clean but also promotes a healthier indoor environment for families and pets.

Why it works: In this example, the spokesperson effectively uses “compare and contrast” to highlight the unique selling points of their eco-friendly cleaning products. By contrasting their plant-based, biodegradable ingredients with the harsh chemicals found in many traditional cleaning products, they emphasize the benefits of their approach. By focusing on the positive aspects of their products and the value they provide to customers, the spokesperson successfully differentiates their brand without directly mentioning or criticizing competitors.

 

4. Being Quotable

When interviewing, you want to be as “quotable” as possible. The best way to do this is by targeting the emotions of those listening or reading. Your spokesperson should discuss proud company or personal moments, be conversational and friendly. 

Being quotable in a media interview means providing concise, memorable, and impactful statements that journalists can easily use in their articles or news segments. Quotable statements often contain vivid language, analogies, or rhetorical devices that make them stand out. Here are a few examples:

  • Interview question: “How does your new app help users manage their time more effectively?”
    • Quotable response: “Our app is like a personal assistant for your productivity. Just as a skilled assistant helps you navigate your day, our app guides you through your tasks, ensuring you stay focused and organized.”
  • Interview question: “What sets your financial planning services apart from others?”
    • Quotable response: “At our firm, we believe that smart planning leads to strong portfolios. Our experienced advisors work diligently to develop personalized strategies that help our clients achieve their financial goals.”
  • Interview question: “Why is it important for businesses to prioritize cybersecurity?”
    • Quotable response: “Cybercrime is expected to cost the global economy $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Investing in robust cybersecurity measures is no longer optional; it’s a critical necessity for businesses of all sizes.”
  • Interview question: “What can individuals do to support your cause?”
    • Quotable response: “Change starts with a single step. Whether it’s volunteering at a local shelter, donating to our programs, or spreading awareness on social media, every action counts. Together, we can create a world where everyone has a safe place to call home.”
 
5. The Importance of Mock Interviews to Prepare

Mock interviews are great training opportunities to practice for real-world situations. Give your client a fake interview scenario, and have them answer questions that they would likely hear from a real interviewer. Practice delivering:

  • Key messages
  • Anecdotes
  • Hooking
  • Bridging
  • Flagging
  • Comparing and contrasting

Acknowledge the strengths of the mock interview as well as what your client can improve on. 

Reviewing Past Interviews

Another way to improve your client’s interview skills is to review their real, past interviews. 

  • Discuss interviews that are strong versus weak and why. 
  • Were they able to deliver their message effectively? 
  • What was post-coverage like? 
  • You should also pinpoint specific instances within interviews when they did well and also what they can work on for the future.
  • Did they say anything quotable? 
  • Did they over-answer?

 

6. Interview do’s and don’ts

With all of the interview best practices we learn, it is hard to memorize them all. Let’s break it down into two general categories: Do’s and don’ts.

  • Do “speak in headlines”: Provide concise, quotable statements that summarize your main ideas to make it easier for the media to feature your message.
  • Do use facts and anecdotes to demonstrate credibility: Support your points with relevant data, examples, or personal stories to establish your expertise and make your message more compelling.
  • Do be engaging and likable: Show enthusiasm, maintain a positive attitude, and build rapport with the interviewer to create a memorable and enjoyable interview experience.

 

  • Don’t assume you are ever “off the record.” Never say anything that you wouldn’t want as a quote. Always consider your words carefully and assume that anything you say could be published or broadcast.
  • Don’t waste time discussing competitors: Focus on promoting your own message and avoid being drawn into discussions about your competitors, as this can distract from your main points.
  • Don’t over-answer, just respond to their question then stop: Provide clear, concise answers to the questions asked, and avoid rambling or going off-topic, as this can dilute your message.
  • Don’t lie: If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s better to admit it and offer to follow up later than to fabricate a response, as this can damage your credibility.


Interviews can be a stressful process when you are unprepared and undertrained. With these great media training tips, you can turn the stress into success and leave every interview feeling confident. Just remember to drive your key messages and stay engaging.