Why interviews fizzle

Interviewing with a reporter is like dating: you prep for the event, you try to engage at a personal level and you even give out your contact information.  However, you still might not make it to the altar or, in the case of the media, into the final story.

There are several reasons why this happens:

  • The reporter liked you but the editor cut you from the final piece. Reporters often have input regarding the final edits.  If you make a strong connection with the reporter and meet his needs, the reporter will champion to keep you in the story.
  • The story line changed between the time of the interview and the time of publication. If you no longer are a ‘fit’ for the story, a smart reporter will appreciate your insight and come back to you for a comment at a later date.  Avoid the temptation to beg for inclusion or second guess the final result. The reporter/source relationship is best viewed as a marathon not a sprint.
  • Your comments were confusing or simply not useful. Avoid this by checking in with the reporter throughout the interview and asking “is this helpful, are we on the same page?”
  • You rambled during the interview.  Practice talking about your company or area of expertise in simple and direct language so that you can deliver your message in a quotable manner. Politicians are very good at this, so watch and learn.
  • Space is limited and only the best comments make the cut. Ask the reporter how long the final article is likely to be.  Reporters need considerably less detail for a 350 word column than they do for a 10,000 word article.  By asking up front, the reporter knows from the start that you are trying to help.
  • You didn’t deliver what you promised or missed a deadline. At the end of the interview, find out what additional information the reporter needs and when.  If you promise to send charts, graphs, slides, images, etc., do it pronto so the reporter can comfortably meet deadlines.
  • You don’t understand what the reporter writes about. Before an interview, read some of the reporter’s recent articles so you can comfortably address this beat.

Reporters are people too, and can make mistakes.  However, by understanding the reporter, the story and deadline, you increase your chances of being quoted following an interview.

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