Five Ways to Ace Your Media Pre-Interview
When you’re booked as a guest for television or radio segments, the producer will often ask you to do a phone “pre-interview.” These interviews give the producer an idea as to what kind of guest you’ll be and what you have to say about the topic.
As a former TV producer, I’ve had many potential guests who dismissed pre-interviews as a waste of their time. I’ve also had guests who absolutely aced them.
Those who aced them tended to get booked more often simply because they were better guests; I knew they would take the segment seriously and give thoughtful, interesting answers on the air.
Here are five things you can learn from guests who gave good pre-interviews:
1. Bring Your Energy: Pre-interviews are often an audition for the segment, meaning the producer could still be looking at other possible guests to fill the spot. Therefore, bring the same energy to the pre-interview that you would to the actual interview. Just as you would in an interview, minimize any distractions around you so you can really focus on the questions and your answers. Producers are not only listening for content, they also want to make sure you’ll be an engaging guest!
2. Prepare: Pre-interviews are not throwaways. As mentioned in rule #1, one of the things for which producers listen is content. Treat pre-interviews as a possible way to shape the segment in which you’re participating. If you say something especially thought provoking, you can bet the producer will pass it on to the host, who will likely ask you a question related to your comment during the actual interview. Make sure you’ve reviewed your messages, and, if you have them, possible sound bites before you do the pre-interview.
3. Listen and Take Notes: The types of questions the producer asks you in a pre-interview are likely going to be similar to those the host will ask during the segment. Jot down any questions or ideas for which you need to do a little extra reading or preparation before the main interview.
4. Plug Your Organization: When speaking with the producer, be sure to ask how you will be introduced in the segment and chyroned (a “chyron” is the identification on lower third of the screen with your name and title). Make sure they have the correct spelling of your name and organization or, if you are more concerned with getting people to visit your website, ask for that to be shown instead. Most producers will oblige. The same goes for radio; the host will often plug your company’s website at the beginning and end of the interview if you ask.
5. Email Pre-Interviews Still Take Effort: If the producer emails you pre-interview questions, be sure to give good, complete, well-thought out and on-message answers. It’s easy to be incredibly casual in email or even dismissive of the format, but remember, producers want a lively segment. If you don’t appear interesting, you won’t get booked!
Christina Mozaffari is the Vice President of Throughline Group.
What do you think? Do you have additional tips for good pre-interviews? Please leave them in the comments section below.
Do the producer’s job for him/her!
Sometimes as part of a pitch, I’ll even send the producer suggestions for the segment, including questions the host can ask (and answers I’d give in response), talking points, how it appeals to their target audience, etc.
Producers LOVE when you can help them shape a segment and do the legwork necessary to ensure a lively discussion that will be of interest to their specific audience.
I’ve never had a producer complain about me doing his or her job for him. The KEY though is knowing what goes into a good segment and what works for that show and its audience.
And unless you’re a former producer/journalist that’s hard to duplicate to be honest.
Great point! Especially in an age in which producers are over-worked and newsroom are under-staffed, they appreciate guests who know how the game is played and remove some of the unnecessary work.
Thanks for leaving the good thought in the comments section.
John, you’re right, with some producers, the more you can give them, the better, especially when your talking points fit well with the show and its audience. And yes, it is critical to be able to think like a producer when pitching those segments!
Thanks for the comment!