How to Execute a Winning Campaign Interview With a Publisher


There are many goals for a content marketing campaign, including to maximize exposure, increase brand awareness, and initiate a conversation with your target audience. Whatever your end goal, an essential element for any successful campaign is a targeted promotions cycle – and the key ingredient in that strategy is earned media. However, a pitch doesn’t always mean an automatic placement: Publishers receive hundreds of pitches and press releases each week, and they only choose to cover a few of them.

The most successful pitches provide only a brief overview of your campaign, so in some cases, a reporter might have additional questions. This is when they’ll ask for an interview – and your answers can determine whether the story gets placed.

These questions can vary significantly: Sometimes a writer wants to learn more about your methodology; other times they want to dig into more sensitive topics. Regardless of the questions, you need to be prepared.

Here, we’ll walk you through a list of common questions, discuss how to answer them, and share the best ways to prepare for your interview:

The Five Most Common Questions

1. What was the inspiration for the project?

The reporter wants to know why you decided to create the campaign, and there are a few ways to approach this question. For instance, your goal might have been to expand upon an existing idea or offer data that counter an existing assumption. Keep in mind, a universal goal for any campaign remains providing something of value to your audience.

A great place to start is by reminding yourself of questions you were trying to answer during the ideation phase. Consider these examples:

  • What makes my audience tick, and which topics do they talk about?
  • Is this idea groundbreaking?
  • Are there any trends I can reveal in my industry?
  • Will this idea compel my audience to share and ignite a discussion?
  • Is this a contentious topic?
  • What is new about this idea?

These are all great questions, and a combination of answers can help you explain to the writer where your idea came from even before production began. For instance, if you have a client who regularly deals with controversial topics (e.g., rehab facilities), explain that you’re always mindful of audience expectations but wanted to offer an idea that challenged existing beliefs.

You can also add that you’re always looking for concepts that can offer new insights into an existing story. Again, the takeaway is the same: Your goal was to create a project that could easily connect with readers, provide them value, and encourage a debate because of data-driven insights.

2. Can you briefly explain your methodology? How did you gather and organize the data?

This is arguably the most common question, particularly because an effective pitch is short. Most likely, a reporter will know very little about your methodology, so a good rule of thumb is to put together a step-by-step process beforehand to help you walk them through it.

You’ll want to start by letting them know whether you used primary research, secondary research, or a combination of both. A quick refresher on the difference:

  • Primary research is any data you collect yourself. This can include surveys, interviews, observations, and ethnographic research.
  • Secondary research is existing data on a given topic.

Primary vs. Secondary Research

A reporter will want to know which type of research you used and any additional details that will help define these parameters. One of the crucial details is timing: It is extremely important for both types of research to boost your credibility. In regards to secondary research, it’s simple: Data published within the last year is what a reporter wants to see. Primary research should reflect something similar (i.e., reporters prefer recent surveys more than older data).

Another important element you’ll want to mention regarding any primary research is your sample size. In order for your data to be representative of a group, you’ll want a minimum of 300 respondents, but most top-tier publishers prefer at least 1,000 respondents.

You’ll also want to explain how you analyzed your data. Did you use a public API, a specific software program, or something else entirely? A writer will want to know.

The most important thing to remember when discussing methodology is to speak in lay terms, using as little professional or technical jargon as possible. By delivering your research in the simplest terms, you’ll lessen the probability of incorrect interpretations. Accomplish this through stories and anecdotes that illustrate your project’s overall goal.

3. Why did you choose some sources over others?

Reporters will probably include this question when asking about your methodology. Your answer should be simple: Either the data were available via authoritative sources, or they weren’t available and you had to conduct primary research.

4. What do you think the results mean?

This question will help you connect your project to something more newsworthy. Generally, the more people affected by an event or issue, the more newsworthy it is. How strongly do your results impact people? How many people do they impact? These are questions with real consequences, and if you can base your answers on potential readers’ reactions, you’re bound to produce something newsworthy and guarantee a placement if a publisher is on the fence.

5. Can you provide me with one or two quotes about the project?

Reporters want their audience to connect with their stories, and a great way to make a personal connection is to include a quote. However, this is also where you can run into the most trouble. The golden rule when speaking with any reporter: Don’t say anything you don’t want to see in print. Assume everything you say – regardless of how casual the interview may seem – will appear online.

What does this mean? It means that you’ll want to have a set of prewritten quotes with you during your interview. This way, you’ll know exactly what to say, and you can ensure nothing is misinterpreted.

How to Prepare Before the Interview

1. Review some of the reporter’s previous articles.

A good reporter does his or her research, so you’ll want to do some research of your own if you want to come to the interview fully prepared. Take some time to look over subjects the reporter has covered recently. Are any topics similar to what you’re going to discuss? If so, you’ll want to note the overall tone – by mimicking the reporter’s words, you’ll encourage a positive relationship that can help you have some control over the tone of your placement.

2. Review current events and see if you can tie your project to them.

To secure your placement, you want to make a reporter’s job as easy as possible. Leveraging trending stories is an easy way for you to capitalize on a current event – and a great way for you to come across as an authoritative and credible source. Achieve this by localizing national topics and focusing on human interest or other relatable angles. Doing so can increase an article’s reach.

3. Ask the reporter for his or her availability and potential questions, and then prepare a document to have on hand during the interview.

Preparing for a media interview can be similar to preparing for a job interview. The only difference: You’re the expert in a media interview.

Once the date and time are confirmed, ask the reporter for a set of potential questions. Encourage the writer to send a list by reminding him or her that it will help you better prepare for the interview.

Gather all this information and compile it into an organized document. Here are several line items you’ll want to include:

  • The interview date, time, and dial-in number. You’ll also want to note any time zone differences.
  • The interviewer’s name, bio, and relevant social media profiles. (Browse his or her accounts before the interview so you can come prepared with a few icebreakers.)
  • A quick description of the writer, including his or her tone and audience demographics. This will help you word potential quotes so they are relatable to the reporter’s audience.
  • Potential interview questions along with their corresponding answers.
  • Three to five key messages you would like to focus on during the interview. This will help you stay on track during any tangents.

Sample Interview Preparation Template

Don’t forget, the goal of reaching out to the publisher before the interview is clarifying the topic of the story – this will ensure you’re on the same page and make the interview that much easier for both of you.

The biggest takeaway? You’re helping the reporter write the story, so you’ll want to make his or her job as easy as possible.

A writer is not an advertising firm; his or her intention is to inform the public through a fair, balanced story – not something that promotes your brand. Reporters are interested in your data and the story they create, so help them by offering additional insights that will compel their readers to share. Remember not to overestimate reporters’ knowledge of your campaign’s subject: You’re the expert, not them. Offer insights that aren’t readily available to the public, and present them in an easily digestible way. Not only will this earn you a placement, but it will also begin your relationship with the publisher – an invaluable connection in our industry.