From Journalist to Trade Industry Expert

From Journalist to Trade Industry Expert

When you’re the one being interviewed for a story,
how should you handle it?

While many of us are accustomed to interviewing sources for stories we write for our trade publications, it’s an entirely different situation when we become the one who is interviewed. Brigid O’Connor of At Ease, LLC, presented practical tips in her presentation, “From Journalist to Trade Industry Expert: When You are in the Hot Seat, How to be a Good Source,” at the June 3, 2003, Denver Chapter ASBPE meeting.


You must decide on no more than three points you want to make during the interview.

Before you agree to the interview, O’Connor said to “interview” the reporter and ask:

  • What is the angle of the story?
  • What other sources are you contacting?
  • What is your deadline?
  • Who are your readers?
  • What is your (the reporter’s) background?

Armed with this knowledge, you are better equipped to offer the reporter what he/she needs. You also are better able to make the points that best achieve your goals.

O’Connor stressed that you must decide on no more than three points you want to make during the interview. If you can make those three points “on the fly,” proceed with the interview. If not, O’Connor suggested being honest with the reporter and saying, “I need ____ minutes to gather my thoughts. I will call you back at _____.” Then, of course, follow through.

During the interview, O’Connor warned of the following potential pitfalls and what to do about them. When the reporter:

  • Keeps repeating the question. Most likely it’s because you haven’t boiled down what you’re saying into something useful, or the reporter is trying to get you to say something you don’t want. Either way, hearken back to the three points you want to make.
  • Asks a multiprong question. Pick the question you want to answer and throw it back to the reporter. Don’t try to provide an overall answer.
  • Encourages you to criticize others. Don’t take the bait. Instead, take the opportunity to paint yourself in a better light.

For more information about media training and public speaking guidance, contact Brigid O’Connor, At Ease, LLC, or 303-378-8738.

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