9.13 Preparing for an Interview

The information strategy is critical in helping you identify people who might be good sources of information for your message and, therefore, good interviewees. But it is also important to arm yourself with background information on the topic of the interview so you can go to the interview prepared.

Pre-interview information backgrounding will help you:

  • A magnifying glass over the word

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    Identify key issues to raise in the interview

  • Uncover conflicting opinions or perspectives for clarification by your interviewee

  • Ground yourself in the basic terminology and concepts of the topic so you don’t ask “teach me the topic” or uninformed (i.e. stupid) questions

  • Identify the areas in which the interviewee would have substantive information to share

  • Understand what has already happened, who the “players” are

This background check might be as basic as reviewing a Wikipedia entry about the topic of the interview. This can give you key dates, data, and terminology and provide you with an historical and / or geographical perspective about the issue. But remember that if you intend to use the information in Wikipedia in your message, you must “second source” it.

Scholarly or scientific topics require a background check in the relevant literature of that discipline. This will give you a head start on decoding the jargon that is likely to be used by interviewees, and will alert you to the current state of knowledge on that subject or where there might be controversies.

For topics currently in the news, checking news archives will give you a sense of some of the coverage of the topic and the key events or angles that you might want to address with your interviewee.

You might want to check the social networking sites to see if there is a Facebook page of supporters (or detractors) on the topic to see what the “buzz” is, check prevailing opinions or see the kinds of issues that are being raised that you might want your interviewee to address. Checking a Twitter feed on the topic (by using a “hashtag” like #theatershooting or #globalwarming) might lead you to resources that people recommend or provide some insights into people’s views.

As a strategic communications professional, preparation before meeting with a client is essential. You’ll want to be sure you understand the client’s core business and the issues they are facing that your communications message will address. Showing that you are aware of both the information the client has prepared about itself and the comments being made about the company and its products/services in the blogosphere or on social networks will give your clients confidence they are placing their message tasks in competent hands.