Phew! That’s a big exhalation of relief and worry all mixed together. I just finished my first newspaper interview for Willow Farrington Bites Back. I’ve done a television interview before, for Mae-be Roses, so thought I knew what to expect. I didn’t.
Firstly, Willow herself attended this interview. Because as the book is about her, it made sense to have her be at the centre of the interview also. The problem with that is that I’m incredibly protective of Willow. I don’t want her being mistreated.
My protective instincts leapt up when, before arriving to the interview, the journalist rang to ask if I had photos of Willow while she was sick. The answer was a barely controlled snarl of ‘no’.
The interview then, and probably naturally, began with the journalist asking Willow about her illness. Obviously this had to be done. It’s background to the story, but my goodness I ground my teeth. Fortunately for the journalist, her photographer was the happy, snappy type.
Also, unlike the television interview, the journalist had done little or no research on the topic, the book or her interview. Admittedly, if this is going to be a ‘filler’ in the local paper, then she doesn’t have time to do research, but it would have been nice, reassuring even.
That said, the journalist did ask about the date and time for the signing taking place on Saturday, so maybe it’s true that any publicity is good publicity?
Having this experience still freshly tingling on my nerves, I’ve decided to give other newbies some tips on interviews now as well:
- Decide before the interview how you want the interview ‘framed’. Who is the central figure? What is the purpose of the interview? What is the focus? With Willow for example: She is in the centre of the frame, the aim is to prove that girls can recover from anorexia and the focus is how well Willow is doing now that she’s better.
- Draw lines in the sand. Are there questions or images you don’t want asked or taken. Be blunt and tell the journalist. i.e. there will NEVER be photos of a sick Willow in the paper, it’s distasteful as well as contrary to our mission.
- Be polite. Journalists work ridiculous hours under constant time pressure. They’re tired and there’s little they haven’t seen, done or heard. Offer coffee and cut them some slack.
- Be ready with your schtick. If you’ve got a platform, be willing to dance on it. Have facts, figures and proof of what you claim. Most journalists love statistics.
- Be prepared for it to go badly. Any time you hand yourself over to the media you need to be willing to accept consequences if the story isn’t what you want. In discussions following the interview, I was preparing Willow for the fact that the story may well end up about her being sick rather than her being brilliant. She shrugged and said “If they write a bad story, we’ll write some bad blogs”. If Willow weren’t this resilient, I would never have done the interview.
What is it they say? Turnabout is fair play? I like it. Still, it leaves me right back where I started. Relieved and worried.