LEE has a vision that senior leaders who are part of the national network will tackle specific problems in our communities with a focus on collectively achieving equitable, sustainable, and transformative change for students and families. A key part in achieving this, is being an effective communicator who can get across their values in a succinct and compelling manner.
However, interviews with journalists aren’t always easy. If the reporter is trying to get to the bottom of a certain story, they might ask difficult or premature questions that can throw the interviewee off and lead conversations down the wrong path.
This post provides an overview of communication tips for effective media interviews on or off camera.
1. Have 3-5 Main Points
Going into an interview, it’s critical to have 3-5 main points that will serve as your anchor, no matter what the reporter asks you. These points should be short, pithy, and be backed by data. The more that you know your talking points and internalize the data behind your message, the more you can control and steer the interview.
Example: To address teacher shortages and move the needle on teacher diversity, it's important that we allow for more innovation in teacher prep. Legislators removed barriers to allow alternative pathways to the classroom, but now at the administrative level, we're seeing the same barriers come back and this will only lead to a perpetuation of the status quo.
2. Utilize the “Block and Bridge” Technique
The classic block-and-bridge technique can steer a conversation toward more favorable topics and lines of conversation, which can often be mutually beneficial for both the person being interviewed and the reporter. This technique is also regularly used to regain control over the direction of an interview or to ensure that your message gets across.
Of note, the block-and-bridge technique does not mean ignoring the journalist’s question. Rather, a successful block starts with acknowledging the question and then following it up with an appropriate transition. This lets the reporter know that you heard their question, but also allows you to steer the conversation in the direction you want it to go. A few of examples of blocking include:
- “That is an important point, and it speaks to the larger issue of…”
- “Thank you for bringing up that point. However, it’s also important to acknowledge…”
- “That is one way to think about it. Another way is…”
Once you’ve successfully blocked a question, then you follow it up with a bridging statement—introduce a topic that better aligns with the message that you are trying to make.
3. Mention Your Constituency Whenever Possible
Make sure you mention the people who got you to where you are and who are impacted by the policies you’re advocating for—your constituents or community members! Not only does it humanize your point and makes it harder for someone to take an antagonistic position, but it also makes it personal and shows that you’re connected.
Reflections & Preparation
- Develop your 3-5 main points that you want to use in your next interview.
- Practice the block-and-bridge technique, including successful blocks and ways to bridge back to your main points.
- Think of specific people in your communities and their compelling stories that are most aligned with your equity-focused vision. How can you best honor them through your own messaging?
Explore how to set yourself up for success as an elected leader.
- 9 Tips for Doing a Remote Interview
- June 8, 2022 Workshop on Communication Strategies for Media Interviews (slide deck and recording)
- LEE Member Resource Library (check out the Communications folder in the Strategy Toolkit)
- Communicating in Politically-Charged Times
- Best Practices: Utilizing Social Media to Increase Your Impact and Further Your Theory of Change
- Social Media Best Practices by Digital Platform
- 10 Best Practices to Make Sure You’re Getting the Most Out of Your Social Media