Kristy Kennedy|Jan 18, 2013

There has been talk for some time about the death of the phone interview. With newsrooms shrinking and reporters wearing multiple hats to meet mountains of deadlines, you could assume that more and more reporters would prefer email interviews.

However, my experience as a PR professional has shown me that the phone interview hasn’t reached its expiration date.

There’s a time and place for every kind of interview, but let’s take a look at the major strengths of email versus phone:

There can certainly be a degree of overlap for each of these points. In general, though, email allows the interviewee more time to process questions and provide on-point messaging, which can be great but also predictable. Phone interviews can be more off-the-cuff, allowing for a more natural, human voice to emerge. Yes, the interviewee risks being caught off guard by a question he or she wasn’t prepared for, but the rapport built between the journalist and interviewee can lead to much more rewarding results. However, there are times when a email interview may be beneficial to control your messages and better edit what you say (or what you don’t say).

Ultimately, I’d argue the phone interview is far from dead. To give you an example, here are a few insights from my day-to-day experience in PR:

  • In general, I do more phone interviews than email interviews
  • The ONLY time I do face-to-face interviews is for broadcast, events, trade shows or media background meetings
  • More media like to do phone interviews alone (no PR wranglers)
  • Interview times are more limited and reporters don’t have a laundry list of questions prepared in advance, opting for more general questions

There are always things that interviewees can do to maximize their phone time with a reporter to make sure they get added to the reporter’s rolodex of go-to sources. Here are a few quick tips to make the most of the phone interview while it’s still around:

  • Know the details of the interview, including date, time and phone number (even a back up number)
  • Use a land line if at all possible
  • Don’t answer your cell while on the call (yes, I’ve had this happen)
  • Follow up with items asked for in a timely fashion to help facilitate the story
  • The more accessible you are the more likely the reporter is going to call you again, whether that’s being available in a half hour or after 5 p.m.

In the age of social media, texting and emails, we sometimes forget to actually pick up the phone and use it. Making communication personal can leave an impression that lasts beyond the current news cycle.

What do think we’ve lost as we’ve moved away from phone conversations, and what’s your biggest phone faux pas? Let us know in the comments below!


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