SME Interview Preparation Kit

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The interview process starts long before a subject matter expert sits down in front of a reporter. Use this collection of resources to plan, coach and facilitate interviews that smoothly reinforce command messages.

Having to answer questions from the media can be nerve-wracking. As a public affairs professional, it is essential that you meticulously prepare SMEs for interviews from start to finish. When working with a SME, you will have additional tasks to understand and complete along with the fundamental interview tasks. For a refresher on interview fundamentals, refer to Successful Interviews 101.

Review the steps below to fully prepare your SME for their next interview:

1. Do the Groundwork

A successful interview begins with extensive planning. The more prepared a SME is, the more confident and relaxed they will be, ensuring a smooth interview. This includes scouting, securing and sanitizing locations, rehearsing interview choreography, and accounting for all security protocols.

Additionally, you can follow this checklist to set your SME up for interview success by briefing them on the reporter's background and focus, and reviewing ground rules for the interview, including length, topic, whether the interview is on the record, attribution, security, accuracy, propriety and policy.

2. Create a Briefing Card

Construct briefing cards to prepare SMEs to give public statements and interviews. A briefing card is a concise, informative resource that a SME can use during an interview. When creating a briefing card for a SME, ensure you receive direct input from them. Your SME has the best insight into the depth of detail needed in the briefing card. An effective briefing card has background information, a determined end state, a public statement, a theme, a message from the command and talking points.

3. Rehearse and Refine

Practicing interview skills and techniques before interacting with the media aids in an effortless performance during media interviews. Techniques such as hooking, bridging and flagging help your SME place extra emphasis on key points while talking to the reporter. Provide feedback to SMEs so they can learn from and improve their delivery for future interviews.

4. Manage the Day Of

The day of an interview can be hectic. Still, it is your job as a public affairs professional to manage the chaos and seamlessly facilitate interviews on the day of the interview. Introduce the SME to the interviewer, monitor the interview, close the interview and provide the SME with constructive feedback after the interview. You should also inform the interviewer that they should contact you as the facilitator, not the SME, for any follow-up questions.

Dig into each of the following resources every step of the way when preparing for your next SME interview.

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