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How to make media interviews work for you

Saturday December 7 2019


When doing a media interview, avoid a duck face selfie with your fingers in a peace sign. Take the feature as seriously as you take your brand. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Part of our job descriptions as writers is to interview Kenyans about their business pursuits for a feature story in a publication.

We hunt these business owners down on social media, and call them with an invite to an interview.

You can only make a first impression once. The rule of thumb is to gas them up until they are like an inflated balloon floating away into the outer limits of the stratosphere.

I will say on phone, “Hallo. Am I speaking to Ajitsa? Ajitsa of RK Designs?” Yes, this is she. “My name is Bett. I’m a writer with the Saturday Nation. I got your number from your Instagram profile. I’ve been following you for a while now and I’m blown away by your work. My goodness! It’s so creative, so visionary!”

I will pause here to give Ajitsa room to chuckle and blush, wave away my truckload of unexpected flatter.

I will carry on, “I’m curious to hear your inspiring story; I know our readers are too. I’d be honoured if you’d give me an hour of your time to share your story with me. Is this something you’re open to?”


Who would say no after that hyperbolic intro? “Great! I’ll come over to your studio. Our conversation will take an hour tops. How is your Tuesday, 10am?”


So on Tuesday 10am, Ajitsa and I will sit next to her sewing machine at her workshop on Ngong Road to have a conversation about RK Designs.

These interviews usually run for eons because folk generally love to talk about themselves. I egg them on with my genuine mix of amazement and curiosity.

“You’re crazy, Ajitsa! Ha-ha. What did you know about tailoring clothes for preteen boys?!”

Anyway, we will have a riot at the interview. I will return to my desk after to draft the story. I may do a call back to iron out little creases like dates and names, then tighten the copy and file it with the editor for publishing.

There is a fleeting moment after filing copy where you feel oddly liberated, as though you have just completed an exam. There is a burst of endorphins.

You want to take two shots of vodka, maybe nap until the New Year or finish that very long movie on Netflix you paused, the one about the Italian mafia’s hitman.


What remains to wrap up the feature are photos. You did not take any on the day you and Ajitsa met for the interview; she asked to do her hair first. You obliged.

You could have tagged a newspaper photographer along to Ajitsa’s but let us be honest, newspaper photographers take newspaper photos.

Those action photos they take of politicians midsentence makes them look rather ridiculous.

What I recommend to business owners is to have a press kit. Think of a press kit as a resume for you and your brand. Three pages at a maximum.

Have some spare information about you, your brand - why and when you launched, what it is about. Also have some product images and contact information, plus handles to your social media platforms.

Attach to your press kit some professionally done photographs. Stay away from studio photos because they make you seem like a talk show host from the 90s.


It is best to have context. Pose next to your tool of trade or your products; if you are like Ajitsa here, pose next to your sewing machine.

If you have a capsicum greenhouse in Kisaju, hold a crate of those freshly-harvested greenies. If you are a blogger or social media influencer, pose with your Canon PowerShot camera.

Some women put on so much makeup for these press kit shoots that no one can recognise them. Not even themselves. Forget the faux eyelashes, darling, and be natural. Be you.

I insist on a press kit because you are being featured in a national newspaper. This is the equivalent of a full-page advert in colour.

If you were to place an AD, in full colour in the same space, it will cost you roughly half a million shillings. Your feature builds your business’ credibility.

It also tells your personal story, which means your audience will have an emotional connection to you, your brand and its story.

Do not squander this opportunity. Do not casually send the writer a grainy selfie on WhatsApp.

Worse, a duck face selfie with your fingers in a peace sign. Take the feature as seriously as you take your brand.

Bett Kinyatti is a certified accountant with ACCA and a former financial auditor.