A recent article in the New York Times is a reminder that we live in an Age of Coaches. There are coaches to tidy your closet, build your personal brand, firm your abs, get your kid into college….and who knows what else.
Yet, when it comes to doing interviews, many people in my experience think they can wing it without the benefit of coaching. Because it approximates the format of a conversation, it’s easy to view a media interview as a conversation. Don’t.
A journalist has a particular objective in interviewing you and in all likelihood that is not your objective. The journalist or blogger has a story to write. You, on the other hand, have a company and yourself to promote. I don’t care how good a speaker you are or how knowledgeable you are about your business. Putting your best foot forward and subtly promoting your business is a learned skill that practice makes perfect. In our experience, people frequently talk too long in interviews. Being succinct, as any writer knows, is also a learned skill.
How do you ensure that your messages don't get lost in an interview? How can you avoid being railroaded or blindsided?
Here are 7 things to do to help you turn a media interview into a true opportunity for you:
1.Ask for the questions ahead of time. Many reporters, particularly those working for trade publications, will provide them in advance. If you can’t get the questions, clarify the focus and purpose. Don’t go into an interview empty-handed.
2.Determine your key message. What do you want to get across in the interview? How do you want to position your company? You want to address both questions in an interview. Carve out a little time in the beginning of an interview to explain your company’s vision. You can also add key points to any answer by doing what’s known as "bridging." That’s an industry term referring to seamlessly moving to your key message by using "bridging words." Here is an example of some ways to bridge: "And what’s key here." "Let me put this in perspective." "What this all means is." "Before we continue, let me underscore."
3.Prepare a quotable sound bite or two. Do you think the phrases that draw the most applause in a presidential debate are off the cuff? The better they are, the more likely they have been carefully prepared and rehearsed. So too in an interview. Work on a catchphrase that makes what you have to say memorable.
4.Work backwards. What headline would you like the article to say? That can help you martial your points and organize your thoughts around a compelling message.
5.Practice, Practice, Practice. Do several mock interviews before the real one so you can demonstrate firm control of your subject matter and sound natural, not rehearsed. Ironically, once you feel confident you can make the material your own and come across as polished, not rehearsed.
6.Don’t be afraid to say, "Let me check on that and get back to you." You don’t have to know everything and you certainly don’t want to give misinformation.
7. Avoid the "no comment" trap. It may look cool on TV but all a phrase like that does is send a signal to a media person that you may have something to hide. This is an example of why you need to be prepared. If you had done your prep, you would have an answer in your pocket for any sensitive question.
In our experience, you can never be prepared enough. That's why we're running a special media training workshop. For details and to register, go to PRos media training.
[Image: Elnur on Shutterstock]