Interview Prep for Subject Matter Experts

Checklist 2 min
Use this pre-interview checklist to thoroughly prepare a subject matter expert for any type of interview.

A successful interview begins with extensive planning. The more prepared a subject matter expert is, the more confident and relaxed they will be, which makes for a smooth interview.

Follow this checklist to ensure you set your SME up for success by thoroughly preparing them for an interview.

  • Prepare and provide SME with a package that includes
    • The reporter's bio
    • Supplementary documents (such as associated articles relevant to the interview topic)
    • The media kit given to the reporter, if available

  • Plan interview choreography
    • Provide SME with date, time and location of interview (where everyone will sit, who will start the call, who will make intros, etc.)
    • Oversee the operation and walk the SME through the entire process to get them comfortable with the plan
    • Discuss ground rules (interview length, topic, on the record, attribution, security, accuracy, propriety and policy)
    • Discuss public affairs officer and SME roles during the interview

  • Brief SME on reporter background and focus
    • Provide an understanding of the reporter’s focus and request for the interview
    • Share other interviews the reporter has set up, if applicable
    • Review the reporter’s wish list (which questions they hope to ask/have answered, if available)
    • Discuss prior conversations held with the reporter
    • Review the media outlet to provide ideas on how to report the topic

  • Review briefing card with SME

    • Tie the interview to the command’s priorities
    • Identify the desired end-state and desired public
    • Explain why the SME is a good fit for this interview on this topic with this reporter to meet this command objective
    • Review the command narrative with the SME
    • Discuss the theme, messages and talking points

  • Rehearse and provide feedback/actionable interview tips

    • Ask possible questions relevant to the interview topic
    • Provide feedback for the SME’s responses 
    • Discuss stronger ways to answer questions
    • Tie responses to end-state

  • Prepare for the day of the interview

    • Prep the SME within 20 minutes
    • Maintain composure, a confident tone and adequate eye contact with minimal use of notes
    • Arrive appropriately dressed (military follows service standards; civilians follow the DINFOS dress code)

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