What Journalists Want

How newsrooms work, what journalists are looking for, and how to enjoy greater confidence

when working with the media.

The following recommendations have been drawn from a 2021 Women For Media member conversation led by WLIA Chair Carol Schwartz AO, ABC journalist Madeleine Morris, and media consultant and trainer Amanda Gome.

Media Interviews Tips and Tricks

1. Understand the media landscape

News journalists are under immense pressure to respond to breaking news in a timely, informed manner. For this reason, many media requests are urgent and opportunities are easily missed. If you are interested in more media opportunities, respond to any media requests quickly and decisively.

2. Back yourself

If a journalist contacts you for an interview, they believe that you are right for the “job”. Take the opportunity – back yourself!

3. Consider the context

While journalists do not, as a rule, provide their subjects a list of prepared questions, you are welcome to ask for information about the context of the request. E.g. What is that you are looking for in the interview? Why have you asked me specifically?

4. What’s your message?

If you accept the invitation, consider carefully what key messages you would like to impart in the interview. Generally speaking, news interviews are short (1-3mins) and will be more successful if you clearly focus on one to three key messages you would like the audience to remember.

5. Visual mediums

If the interview is being conducted on a visual medium (TV/live Zoom stream etc.) make sure you consider your grooming (and if on Zoom your lighting camera angle and background) so it best supports your message. Avoid ill-fitting clothes, busy distracting patterns (unless this is key to your message) and consider getting your hair and make-up done if it helps you to feel more confident on-screen.

6. Be authentic, be confident

Audiences and journalists are media savvy and respond to confident, authentic speakers. Speak confidently to your areas of expertise and do not pretend you know more than you do. It is perfectly fine to say that “that is not my area of expertise” in response to a question, followed up by “but I can talk about…”

7. Building relationships

Journalists are always looking for new sources of information. They are interested in new stories and they want to hear from people in different fields. While they are busy, they’re open to interesting new pitches and introductions. You are welcome to call or email a journalist, ask to have a coffee, or offer an opinion or a story angle. It doesn’t need to be a press release, it can just be a quick email saying, “Have you thought about this particular angle? I’ve got a couple of thoughts on it. If you want to give me a call to discuss.” If you work with PR professionals, choose a good one because they’re representing you and your brand – some PR agencies can be too aggressive or scattergun in their approach and burn, not build, relationships with journalists.

8. The benefits of media training

More corporates are looking to train their executive team to be media spokespeople, to give them the skills to speak confidently, and to have a diverse cohort of people represent the company. It supports the CEO and helps the executive team lead as representatives of the brand. If you have the opportunity to take up training it is recommended that you do so, to practice speaking to different interviewers in different scenarios.

9. Off the record

Most journalists still honor ‘off the record’ (beware a few rogues and research the journalist). ‘Off the record’ literally no record. So a journalist does not take notes; they listen, and that’s it. ‘Background ‘means you can give someone information for their use to inform an article or an interview or questions, but you’re not sourced as the source of that article. Remember to be ‘off the record’ you need to say that at the start of the conversation. You must assume in all of your dealings with journalists that everything is ‘on the record” unless you don’t want it to be. You can toggle back and forth in the conversation, just make it very clear as you go.

10. Amplifying your messages on social media

Today “women in the media” includes social media. If you are keen to be considered for more interviews, growing your social media channels and using them as a platform to showcase your expertise is a great option. You can tag journalists into your posts to alert them of your opinions and ideas but be discerning. Don’t repeatedly tag unless they are actively engaging back and showing interest. If you are in the media remember to share the article on your LinkedIn/ their social channels with a comment or thanks.

Women’s Leadership Institute Australia thanks Madeleine Morris and Amanda Gome for volunteering their time and expertise in support of the Women for Media database and its commitment to promoting diversity and gender equality in the Australian media landscape.

Women for Media an initiative of the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia (WLIA), is a database that provides journalists access to more than 200 senior female leaders for interviews or comments. The aim of the database is to increase the visibility of female leaders in the media speaking about their professional areas of expertise in order to ensure diversity of thought, challenge stereotypes, and provide role models for aspiring executives and leaders.

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