How to Prepare for a Press Interview

Pro Tips: How to Prepare for a Press Interview

Experts on achieving excellence in almost every field – athletics, the performing arts, business, academia, and more – agree that the best way to get optimal results from any presentation is to be prepared. You can prepare for a press interview, just as you prepare for a show. It can help to write a script of an imaginary interview, even if during the actual interview you don’t use a word of it, and you can even rehearse your answers aloud. You probably can’t control what the interviewer will do, but you can go in ready to do your best. The suggestions I’m giving here are pertinent to burlesque, but I’ve helped people use them in other areas of the entertainment industry, in activism, and in business community interviews as well.

1) Know the questions most commonly asked in your field.
Look at other interviews in your field. Common questions in burlesque include: “How did you get started?” “What’s the difference between burlesque and stripping?” “Is burlesque empowering?” “Do you make a living solely from performing?“
And remember, it's okay to say, "I don't know," or "Next question please." You can set boundaries! Just decide in advance how you’re going to do it, so you’re not caught like a deer in headlights if it happens. And if they persist, just ask them to respect your boundaries.

2) Be prepared for those questions.
Write down your best answer or answers to those popular questions.

3) Respond in complete sentences, including the question you’re answering in your response, just like in school.
It helps to avoid confusion if you are quoted. Being misquoted is probably more common than being properly quoted, even via written interviews. Do your best to prevent it.

4) Prepare especially well for questions you anticipate that make you anxious.
Think about the questions you think may not be common, but that you find you ask yourself. If they are questions for which you can look up answers, such as, “What year was the first burlesque striptease?” do look them up before the interview. If it is a question that makes you personally anxious, such as “Do you consider yourself an expert?” dig deep in yourself to find the answer that you feel best expresses your most confident state. If you say you’re really not important, they’ll believe you.

5) Admit your ignorance when it occurs.
When you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay to say, “I don’t know” or “I’m still deciding what I think about that” or “I’m still looking into that.” And, if you are called out for a mistake, explaining yourself is usually time-consuming and can make you look weak. Just apologize full stop without a comma after the apology.

6) If it gets controversial or they bring up something you aren’t sure how to talk about, speak your truth.
Some people will turn against you or complain about you or shame you on social media, but speaking your truth will help you find the right people to appreciate your goals and your ethics, and it will help you make sustainable connections.

7) If someone asks a question you don’t want to answer, you don’t have to answer it.
How you redirect the interview depends on your comfort level and personality. You can simply say, “I’d prefer not to answer that.” If you are pressed to say why, you can say, “By telling you why I don’t want to answer it, I’d be answering it. I hope you’ll respect my wishes.” If you’re sassy, you can say, "I’m glad you asked that,” and answer a different question, ideally bringing up something much more fascinating as a diversion. If they point out that you did it, laugh and say “yeah.” Don’t explain or apologize. It’s clear you don’t want to answer and that’s all anyone needs to know. The interviewer is not your boss and they are not doing you a favor by interviewing you; the benefit should be mutual. Not answering is truly okay.

8) Refrain from commenting negatively, directly or indirectly, on other performers, producers, etc., unless it’s truly important.
If it’s about your former roommate, boyfriend, or business partner, chances are good that it’s personal, however grand you imagine your motives to be. Don’t be that drama llama. If what you know about them is true, people will often figure it out on their own pretty quick. Anyway, it can make you look petty and unprofessional. Referring to things you don’t like is just plain giving your press away to them. Direct the attention of the listener or reader to the things to which you want attention to be paid. And, bonus insight, if you talk about people or art or brands you don’t like, you may inadvertently alienate people you admire who, when they smell self-serving crap being stirred up, don’t care who is responsible for the crap, but just want to get as far as possible from the smell.

9) Of course there’s such a thing as bad press. You don’t want it.
Beware the overshare. Enjoy the interview, but remember, nothing is really off the record. Know before the interview what you don’t want to share, and don’t share it.

10) Beware of doing interviews in a crowd, or drunk, or in the middle of show production.
If there are circumstances you know will make you liable to alienate the interviewer, avoid them to the best of your ability. Often we really have no time during shows, no patience in the middle of a crowd, no grace when drunk. You can just say no to interviewing at those times.

11) Know what you want to promote, what you want to say about it, and have the pertinent information at hand.
If it is a verbal interview, feel free to write it down in advance on a notecard and give that notecard to the interviewer. Don’t assume that if they are tape-recording you will covered. And if you have that notecard in front of you, you won’t forget to mention it.

12) Feel free to let go of your prepared responses if you so desire.
You’re not a machine. You might get passionate. You do you.

By Jo Weldon, 2016

Photo of Jo Weldon by Dallas PinUps

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