How to Give a Good Media Interview for Your Nonprofit
Media interviews can be a great way to get the word out about your nonprofit and the issues and causes your organization supports, but care is needed in dealing with the media.
Be prepared. Be sure to fully understand the subject matter the interview will cover. Research and see if the outlet or the reporter has written on the subject before. Understand the reporter’s angle before agreeing to the interview. To make things easier for both of you, prepare and provide the reporter with a fact sheet about your organization. Watch the news and take note of how seasoned interviewees answer questions. Keep up with the news and stay in tune with the reporters that cover the issues that are important to your organization. Make sure you know exactly how you are supposed to explain what your organization does and how it relates to the subject matter. Practice an interview with a co-worker. Always get permission from your direct supervisor and the public-relations department (if your organization has one) before agreeing to an interview. Every nonprofit should have a clear set of rules for working with the media.
Don’t agree to an interview if you don’t have an opinion or expertise on the subject. As great as an opportunity might be, if you are not really an expert that can provide the insight the reporter needs, decline the interview. Or, better yet, find someone within your organization who has the required expertise. Remember, sometimes the best person to represent your organization is a volunteer, board member or recipient of your services.
Don’t feel the need to answer every question. This may seem counter intuitive (and remind you of politicians), but the bottom line is if you are not the right person to answer a specific question, it is okay to say so. That is a far better solution than giving misinformation.
Adjust to the interview type. Whether over the phone, via email, on camera, live or taped, you want to be mindful of the type of interview you’re giving. While a phone interview with a newspaper reporter allows you to be more long-winded (and where your pajamas), a live radio over-the-phone interview requires you to be short and concise (think “sound bites). If you are asked to do a live interview and do not feel comfortable, request a pre-recorded one. But keep in mind they will edit to their liking so you have less control over the final product. For print pieces (newspapers, magazines and their online counterparts), ask if you can be interviewed by having them send questions via email. This is recommended if it is a dicey topic and you are concerned about being misquoted. If the interview is on-camera, make sure you are presentable and pay attention to what’s in the background.
Be aware of who is interviewing you and what outlet they represent. Never agree to an interview of any kind without understanding where your interview will appear. In the new age of blogs and online news sites, there are more opportunities than ever. However, there are also more opportunities for you to be taken advantage of for political or other purposes. If a website is obviously at a completely different side of the spectrum than what your organization represents, it may be best to decline the opportunity. Always research who is behind a news outlet – find out the publishing company. Do your diligence. When in doubt, be cautious.
Don’t let anyone push your buttons. Don’t fall for it if you are obviously asked a question that is meant to get a knee-jerk response. Don’t attempt to make yourself or your organization look better by putting others down. Always take the high road, even when those on the other side of an issue are not.
Be self-serving without appearing to be self-serving. In some cases, the interview is specifically about your organization, making it acceptable for your comments to put your cause front and center. However, if the piece is about an issue or cause, make sure you talk about that rather than about your nonprofit specifically. With some preparation and positive thinking, you will give a great interview and get better with every opportunity.
Hannah Brazee Gregory is a nonprofit marketing expert, workshop presenter and founder of SHOESTRING, the nonprofit’s agency. She heads up PR efforts for a number of nonprofits across the country. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-888-835-6236. Follow her on Twitter at @NonprofitPRguru or read her blog at www.NonprofitPR.org.