Your office phone rings. It’s a newspaper reporter who wants to interview you tomorrow morning about one of your clients. Your thoughts shift from your client’s project to the reporter, who commands, and in this case deserves, your attention.

Many people assume that being interviewed is as simple as waiting for a reporter to ask questions. However, if you are not fully prepared, both in terms of the content of your presentation and the process – what to expect during the interview – being interviewed can be a frightening experience. Conversely, if you know your material and feel confident about your ability, an interview can be rewarding for both of you.

Preparing for the interview

  • First, it is important to understand that reporters are usually on deadline. Call back right away. Your window of opportunity may close fast. Ask the reporter what kind of deadline he or she is facing. You should immediately ask the reporter the subject of the interview and some sample questions. You must assume you are always on the record. It is also best to refrain from going off the record.
  • Don’t get caught off-guard by the news media. If a reporter shows up at your office or contacts you at a time when you are unprepared, reschedule the interview for a time when you feel comfortable.
  • Be prepared for all questions. Short answers are much better than long-winded ones. Decide ahead of time two or three main points to discuss with the reporter. Assemble the facts to support your points.

During the interview

  • Stop speaking when you have made your point, no matter how long a reporter pauses between questions. If possible, do a dry run with a friend.
  • Avoid saying “no comment.” Instead, briefly explain that it is your policy not to discuss a client’s case that are in litigation. Or say something like this: “I can’t answer your question because I haven’t seen the document you’re referring to.”

After the interview

  • Ask the reporter when he or she expects the story to be published. In most instances, reporters do not allow you to review their stories before they go to print. You can, though, ask the reporter questions at the end of the interview to test for comprehension. For example, “What do you think is the main point of the story?”
  • Ensure that the reporter has your cell phone number or other ways to contact you during the day and after hours.
  • If it is deserving, give the reporter positive feedback after the story is published. Encourage the reporter to contact you with follow-up stories.

A good relationship with the media can go a long way. Your name in print can garner a lot of attention and respect, no matter how negative the case might be. It might also help you set yourself apart from the competition.