Media Training

Legitimate Pre-Interview Questions

As an interviewee, you have the right to ask a few questions prior to an interview. But what questions are appropriate to ask a journalist before an interview? And what questions are completely out of bounds?

It's hard to ignore the fact that journalists have an upper hand in TV interviews.

It would be great if you could ask the interviewer for a copy of the questions he intends to ask during the interview. Unfortunately, you can't - that's one of the pre-interview questions that's considered out of bounds. However, there are other pre-interview questions you can ask to learn valuable information about the interviewer and his intended story.

What is the interviewer's name and affiliation?

Ask for the interviewer's name and affiliation before the interview so you can research her prior work. It's likely that someone at your PR firm is already familiar the interviewer and can give you a briefing about the kinds of stories she typically reports.

What is the story about?

Journalists understand that your willingness to sit down for an interview is predicated on the story topic. For example, if you own a pizza shop it's not likely that you'll want to be interviewed for a story on nutrition - unless your niche is serving pizzas that are as healthy as they are tasty.

What aspect of the story is the interviewer focusing on?

There's a chance that you might not be the right person for the journalist's interview. It depends on the aspect of the story that the interview is focusing on, but a different person might make a better interview subject. The worst-case scenario is to find yourself sitting down for an interview about an aspect of your industry with which you are completely unfamiliar.

What is the reporter' angle?

Story topic is one thing. But you should also understand the reporter's angle before you agree to an interview. Reporters are sometimes hesitant to tell you their angle in advance, but it's not unreasonable to ask where they're coming from before you subject yourself to the bright lights of the cameras.

Can you send background information?

Most journalists are open to the idea of receiving background information before an interview. They'll probably view any information you send them with a certain degree of skepticism, but the hope is that they will use your information as the basis for the questions they will ask during the interview.

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