Why a Media Interview is NOT a Conversation

Media interview success takes preparation

I recently read a profile of a journalist who interviews celebrities. She said she doesn’t like to over-prepare because her goal is to make the interview like a conversation.

As a TV reporter and producer. I’ve said the same thing countless times.

“It will be fun. We’ll just have a conversation.”

But when I put on my media trainer hat, I must tell you a media interview isn’t really a conversation.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a reporter framing an interview as a conversation. When asking for an interview as a reporter, you don’t want people to feel pressured or coerced into talking with you.  During an interview, you want them to relax and feel comfortable so they will open up and talk freely.

Putting people at ease is part of an interviewers’ job. So is asking all kinds of questions. When you agree to an interview, it’s your job to be mindful of how interviews and conversations work.


How often have you talked to family, friends, even strangers where all you did was ask them questions?  I never have. A conversation is about sharing information, a two-way street of exchanging questions, comments, and stories where everyone contributes, probably on a wide range of random topics.

An interview is a one-way street. It’s focused on a narrow range of specific topics. Whether it’s hard news or a feature story interview, the format will be Q & A. The reporter asks, you answer.

Plus, unless it’s a live interview, the viewers are unlikely to hear what the reporter asked. Their questions may be cordial or aggressive or both and no one will ever know from seeing the story. You need to be careful how you react in your facial expression and tone of voice since most questions are edited out, leaving only your sound bites.

To be fair, there are television interview formats that are more conversational. A talk show can seem more like a casual chatty affair than a news interview. The host generally has more time to engage in longer give-and-take exchanges. Hosts are also more likely to add their own personality with comments and stories to keep the interview lively. Talk show discussions can go in a lot of directions and feel like real conversations.

Still, serving their audience with information or entertainment is the primary focus of any broadcaster. The show host is in the driver’s seat and will steer the discussion toward the topics the producers planned to explore. They also control how long the segment runs and may lengthen or shorten it based on how interesting or boring the discussion seems to the audience.


Most people have had tons of experience making conversation but little, if any, experience doing media interviews. It’s easy to fall into a trap when a disarming reporter says, “Oh, we’re just having a conversation” and get too casual and too candid in your comments.

Still, it’s important to be conversational in an interview rather than sound guarded or scripted. A confident engaging speaker is more appealing to an audience than an uncomfortable speaker. A great message can be lost if the audience feels uneasy or doesn’t find you likable.


Always have a plan for what you want to accomplish in a media interview. Decide the main 2-3 ideas you want to express. Be ready to repeat those ideas in a variety of ways in simple everyday language. Know how to stay focused and artfully bring the interview back to your message.

Bottom line: don’t miss an opportunity to effectively get wider exposure for your ideas by skipping your media prep.

Do you have a media interview coming up or just want to be more media ready?  I can help. Schedule an appointment on my calendar and let’s talk about what you need. 

Go here to book a no obligation call: http://bit.ly/Talk2Janet




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Janet Vasil

On-Camera, Speaker & Media Trainer/Coach at Vasil Media Group | Your Media Moment & Beyond
Virtual Communication Specialist Janet Vasil is a former award-winning, EMMY®-nominated TV Journalist who teaches business professionals to communicate with impact on-camera, in media interviews, and as public speakers. Contact at http://bit.ly/Talk2Janet

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