An interview with a reporter might seem like a challenge, but making yourself available to the media is an excellent way to raise your profile.

“Media coverage is an opportunity to reach a broader audience and build awareness about your expertise and your company’s products and services,” says Deborah Thompson, president of DT Communications in Toronto.

Whether that message is heard will depend largely on how much homework you do in advance of your interview, says Anne Lachance, managing partner and president of Kaiser Lachance Communications Inc. in Toronto. “Despite how easy doing a television or print interview looks, it takes a lot of practice to come off prepared and polished.”

Here are a few key strategies to consider should you be asked to participate in a media interview:

> Be available and flexible
Reporters’ schedules and deadlines often change on short notice. Try to keep your schedule as flexible as possible regarding the timing of your interview, says Lachance: “The more flexible and available you are for interviews, the more likely the media will call on you.”

> Never be caught off guard
A reporter who is on deadline may call you with a request for an interview on the spot. “Take some time before the interview,” Thompson says, “to do some research and understand the context of the article.”

Thompson suggests asking the reporter if you can call them back at a later time, giving yourself enough time to prepare.

> Be prepared
Prior to participating in the interview, try to figure out what the reporter wants and needs from your answers.

While the obvious way of doing that is by asking for questions in advance of the interview, Thompson cautions against it.

“Reporters are usually on tight deadlines,” she says, “and for the most part, it’s not practical for them to send questions in advance.”

Instead, try asking about the angle of the article in general. Why is that reporter writing it? What section is it going in? Also, ask if there is any additional data, charts or specific information he or she might require.

“The goal is to be as helpful to the reporter as possible,” Thompson says, “so that they can do their job well and, ultimately, help position you and your firm in a positive light.”

Adds LaChance: “They have picked you for a reason. The more you can find out about what they are looking for, the more information you can prepare to share with them. “

> Don’t worry about the camera
Getting interviewed on air can seem more intimidating than print. One technique used by those with lots of on-camera experience is to focus on the interviewer — not the camera and not your surroundings.

“Let the camera crew worry about how you look,” Thompson says. “That’s their job.”

For your part, avoid busy-patterned suits or ties, adds Thompson: “Solids show up best on screen.”

If you are afraid of a host catching you off guard with a question, there’s no need to be. Most television and radio shows conduct what’s called a “pre-interview,” so both the interviewer and guest can have a smooth conversation on air.

This is the second instalment in a two-part series on developing a media strategy.

For part one, see: Four steps to an effective media profile