By Princess Jones

Trade magazines — those publications specifically targeted to industry insiders — are actually a pipeline right to your target consumer. Let’s say that you have an amazing new client management software that you are trying to sell to insurance agents. Being featured in a magazine that caters to insurance professionals is a big deal to you.

But as a trade magazine contributor, I’ve dealt with a lot of business owners who don’t necessarily understand how to be an interviewee. Don’t let it happen to you. Follow these quick interview tips and you’ll get the most out of every piece you’re involved with.

Don’t Say You’ll Do Anything You Can’t Do

The biggest problem I have with interview subjects for these magazines is that they aren’t serious. They tell me to call them at 10:00 a.m. to do the interview and then aren’t available. They say they’re going to answer the questions in email form but two days after the deadline I gave them, I’m chasing them down for the information.

Trade writers don’t want to blow their deadlines. They won’t be upset with you if you just say “Hey, I’m in the middle of a huge product launch or expo and I just don’t have time to be interviewed this time.” We’ll likely remember how upfront you were and try to contact you next time.

I once contacted a business owner who was slated to have a profile written about her. She emailed me a profile she’d had in another magazine and said I could “just take from the information from that and jazz it up.” How many times do you think I contact that company when I need sources for an article in their industry? If you guessed zero, you’re very good at this game.

Choose the Right Interview Option for You

When I contact trade magazine sources, I try to offer two choices of interview mediums. The first and preferred method is a recorded phone interview. The other option is the email interview to be completed by a deadline.

Either method gets the job done, but you should choose the one that’s best for you. I think that phone interviews often get more information than you would imagine. Personality and passion really shines through. I once interviewed a judge on a popular dance competition TV show by phone and it was so real and fresh. I had a technical glitch that caused me to lose the interview recording. He didn’t have time to get back on the phone so I sent the questions by email. What I got back was stilted and could have been copied and pasted from any press release.

On the other hand, if you’re a little shy, you may not feel comfortable with a phone interview. It’s easier for you to put your thoughts on paper. What if you’re the head of the department but you want to clear all of your answers with your boss first? An email interview would work better for you, too. Is your schedule tight? Are we five time zones apart? Do you want to include information from multiple sources in your company? Then choose the email option.

Promote Yourself Smartly

The whole point of doing a trade magazine interview is to get the word out about you and your brand. That’s the reason you’re doing this article at all. On the other hand, the writer is doing this to spread information about a certain topic. Our editor expects something with a balanced viewpoint that will be useful to the readers of the magazine.

So when I ask you a question, the answer isn’t always your product. A good interviewer is going to ask you specific questions about your products that really give you a chance to tell the readers why you do what you do and how it benefits your consumers. But when asked non-salesy questions, give a non-salesy answer. It will make you seem more credible to both the writer and the readers.

Know Your Stuff

Last year, I did a phone interview with a woman who owned a pet-specific cleaning business. I knew this because her website advertised her as so. When I got her on the phone, she had no idea what I was talking about. She didn’t know what her best selling package was and she didn’t know who her target client was, either. At point in this interview, I was actually reading copy from her website to her and she responded with “Oh, does it say that?”

When you’re being interviewed, you should know what you’re talking about. Ask for the questions up front if you’re worried about being unprepared. Don’t ever be afraid to say that you don’t think you’re the person to answer a question. Writers try to target questions to your expertise, but sometimes they miss. You can’t know everything and don’t worry about even trying to do so.