Founders: 5 Ways Not to #Fail Your First Press Interview

Landing your first press interview is exciting. But play your cards wrong, and the result can be a big #fail. Here are five tips to nail it out of the gate.

So, founder friend, the time has come – the long-awaited birth of your baby (ahem, startup) is upon you. Your heart goes giddy with excitement à la Christmas morning when you think of making public the fruits of your team’s sincerely scintillating labor. The bugs have been eradicated, the betas tested, and, by George!, you’ve made it through Apple’s rigorous App Store standards on the first try (virtual high five).

Upon hiring a professional to help you wade through the waters of what the media and blogosphere have become, you’re informed that – ding ding ding! – a top journalist in your industry is interested in writing about your endeavor, and you’ve got an interview at 9:00 tomorrow morning. Let’s go ahead and assume it’s 10:00pm the night before (because, really people, what startup founder isn’t a night owl?), and you’ve only just begun to prepare for the story of your life. Don’t. Panic.

Due to the slight oversharing to which startup founders are prone, it’s advisable, IMveryHO, to succinctly prepare for the following five questions that will surely be asked of you by the journalist doing the digging. Write down the answers if you have to, but make sure you’ve confidently got the basic responses down, and that your inner Kanye has gone mum (no one, not even Rolling Stone, wants to hear you say the entrepreneurial equivalent of, “If I was to say that I hadn’t already done all of that, then I’d be on some fake Hollywood bullshit modesty, and that’s just plain stupid.”).

Without further adieu:

  • How did you come up with this idea? What are you trying to solve? Everyone enjoys learning about the Aha! moment when the idea was first conceived. It’s a nice anecdote that provides key background information regarding the company, the founder and the team. Invariably, these two questions are usually fused into one – the journalist jumps immediately into what really makes your startup special. Remember, they’ve seen A LOT of pitches and want the juicy details.
  • How are you different from your competition? This means you actually have to have a clear vision of who your competitors are and what they do. Do your homework, mate. Have unequivocal examples of what they’ve done and how you’re going to do it better, faster, stronger.
  • What’s your business model? There’s no greater turnoff than a startup founder floundering around when asked this question. If you don’t know the answer, you’re in the danger zone. If you’re in the danger zone, you best be exceptionally prepared for the interview (go make yourself a business model canvas right now!). In the mean time, fake it ’til you make it off the thin ice.
  • Where do you see your business in one (to three) year(s)? This can prove to be a tricky one due to the many pivots startups usually experience and the unpredictable nature of entrepreneurship, but either way, it’s something beneficial to have mapped out and ready to share. Make sure you’ve thrown in some believable numbers.
  • Who are your socios (business partners, co-founders, etc)? Have a list of names, personal bios, company roles, and headshots (in hi-res, of course) ready just in case.

And the bonus curveball you should probably be ready for is: Have you received any investments? From whom? For how much?

And there you have it. With the first interview, you’ve successfully planted your flag in the media’s territory – an accomplishment that will hopefully usher a long and healthy relationship with the press based on your exceptional accomplishments and communicational savvy. As long as you don’t pull anything like this, you’re on your way to smooth sailing, good captain.