Journalists all have their favourite interviewees, the ones they always turn to if they are writing or producing a story about a particular topic.
When I worked for the medical magazine Pulse, I used to speak to particular GPs almost on a daily basis, and it would be these that I would then quote in my stories.
When I worked for BBC Newsroom South East (now BBC London), we always talked to Professor Tony Travers about issues relating to local government, and Southall Black Sisters were a fantastic source for issues relating to race and women.
The benefits of this for the interviewee are of course that the profile of their organisation is raised – as of course was theirs – which increased their credibility, their influence, and, at times, helped to raise funds.
So what do we tell our media training experts when they ask how to become a favoured source?
There are really five qualities they need to display:
1. Credibility & knowledge
You must know what you are talking about, and have the right credentials to prove it – relevant background, experience and qualifications.
One of our clients, the World Energy Council, once said to us that they had a “good caption” – that they sounded as if they knew what they were talking about.
Journalists don’t want someone who sits on the fence. They want someone who is prepared to stick their neck out and say what they think.
3. Good quotes/soundbites
And to put it bluntly, they don’t want someone who is boring. They want someone who can express themselves in an interesting manner, but also keep their answers succinct, so they can easily be quoted in newspapers, and in the case of radio and TV, used in news reports and bulletins.
4. Interesting stories
If you can bring your interviews to life by illustrating the points and principles you are making with interesting stories, that makes you a far more engaging interviewee. Sprinkle them with stories, examples, case studies, every-day analogies and anecdotes.
There’s no point saying you want to become a thought leader and do media interviews then never answering the phone when a journalist calls, or always being in a meeting or in another country. They’ll soon give up and go to the next choice. You have to respond quickly and you have to be able to do an interview in time to meet their deadline. Yes, it is time-consuming. Yes, it is disruptive. But the rewards can be well worth it.
We run tailored media training courses to help experts who want to build their profile by doing interviews with the media. Contact us on 020 8332 6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.