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Congratulations! You (or your PR team) have booked a briefing with a key journalist in your field. You've secured a date and time and agreed on a location... now what?

Colin Powell said about success, "There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure." The same can be said for media interviews.

When I worked in-house, I learned quickly that preparing my executive management team for briefings was as important as the interview itself. When I moved agency-side, preparing clients for their conversation with the media was a challenging, but hugely rewarding part of the process. After all, nothing has more power to threaten your credibility than a poorly-executed interview with a member of the press. But when you nail it? Nothing feels better.

Those who are well-prepared for a media interview seem confident, relaxed, and adept at handling whatever comes their way. Those who don’t prepare for that conversation may instead be forever haunted by Youtube clips of their on-air gaffe, or awkward, misinformed quotes in the resulting article. The next time you're about to speak with a journalist, remember these 13 tips:

  1. Be confident. You are the expert.
  2. Time goes by quickly, concentrate on what two or three key messages you want to relay in the resulting media coverage.
  3. Don’t overestimate a reporter’s knowledge of your subject. Set the record straight. Offer background information.
  4. Research the reporter’s previous articles and interview style.
  5. Stick to your main points and do not allow yourself to get drawn too far off on tangents.
  6. Avoid saying anything you do not want to read in print, hear on the radio, or see on television or the internet. Never lie to a reporter.
  7. Nothing is off the record, be wary of casual remarks.
  8. Avoid jargon and acronyms.
  9. Wear something comfortable and smart, avoiding fussy patterns and bulky jewelry.
  10. Practice; put yourself in front of a camera and play back the rehearsal.
  11. Don’t be fixated by the question. “Bridge” to a related point you want to make.
  12. Don’t repeat a reporter’s negative statement or slurs. Frame your reply as a positive statement.
  13. Make your final comment clear and concise, reemphasizing your main point. If you feel that you failed to get the message out, force it in at the end (“I think we’ve missed the real, critical issue here, which is…”).

A version of this article first appeared on CMO Essentials.

Thank you to my sources: