Tips for Authors: How to Rock Your Media Interview

Rob Ford Meets the Press  © 2011 West Annex News, CC-BY-SA-2.0

Rob Ford Meets the Press © 2011 West Annex News, CC-BY-SA-2.0

As a former reporter and PR pro, I’ve seen my share of media interviews go horribly wrong.

Like when Toronto Mayor Rob Ford ran away from reporters during a media scrum.

Which led to a parody on Saturday Night Live, ridicule on the Daily Show, and a very weird interview on the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Now there’s even a cracked-theme video game about him.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on the Jimmy Kimmel Show

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford on the Jimmy Kimmel Show

You definitely don’t want to do a Rob Ford.

Follow these tips for dealing with the media and you’ll come off as polished, knowledgeable and in control.


1) Prepare

  • Ask the reporter about the story– what’s the goal of the interview?
  • Review the reporter’s stories.
  • Study the outlet she writes for – who is the audience? (There’s a big difference between being interviewed for the book section of the New York Times versus an interview with a community paper.)

2) Know your subject area

  • Does the topic of your book relate to an issue that is currently in the news? For example, if your book were about famous whistleblowers you’d want to be up-to-date on the news about Edward Snowden.
  • Who else is writing books about the same topic? How is their book similar or different from yours?

3) Limit yourself to three key speaking points

  • What do you want people to know?
  • Unnecessary information complicates the story.
  • Stick to your message (or you’ll end up saying things you shouldn’t).

4) 10 hard questions: 10 succinct, plain-language answers

  • Anticipate the 10 most difficult questions and prepare your answers
  • Create answers that reinforce your three key points
  • Use plain language

5) Know the Three Things You Should Never Say – and Don’t Say Them

  • Never ask to “go off the record.” Everything you say from the start of the interview until the reporter has left the building is fodder for her story.
  • Never say “no comment.” Instead, expect difficult questions and prepare answers that make you shine.
  • Never answer a question when you don’t know the answer. Say “I don’t know,” and then offer to refer the reporter to someone who does.

6) Practice makes perfect

  • Memorize your key speaking points until they flow freely.

7) Have background information available

  • Information about your book – what it’s about, reviews, news clippings, your headshot, photos the reporter can use in her story.
  • Your business card – including your website URL and social media channels.
  • The best way to contact you for follow-up .

8) Match your dress to your venue

  • If the interview is on your home turf, then dress accordingly (business casual is usually appropriate for authors).
  • For interviews at the TV or radio station, it’s better to dress up than down.
  • No matter what the venue, look neat and professional.

9) Relax

  • Clear your head before the interview – go for a little walk or have a snack (but don’t eat anything smelly).
  • Lay off the coffee before your interview. Caffeine is anxiety inducing and can make you seem too chatty.


Interviews that went horribly wrong

Dr. Stephen Duckett’s “cookie exchange” with the Edmonton media

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford stuns city with oral sex comment

BC Premier’s Director of Communications loses her temper

Learn more

Spot the mistakes in this author makes in his media interview

Creating a “hook” for your book

Your primer to on-camera media interviews

Look good on camera – how to dress for author TV appearances

3 reasons to avoid email interviews

 Read my Lironi INK blog for coaches.


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