A media interview, when conducted properly, can be an excellent opportunity to tell a positive story about your product, services, mission, or company. It can help build awareness and drive specific actions, such as buying a product, attending an event, or voting for/against an issue. For many people, however, media interviews are stressful – but they don’t have to be if you’re properly prepared. There are a variety of techniques that can help you improve the way you convey your messages in interviews.
The most effective media interviews rely on your ability to achieve confidence, control and credibility as a spokesperson. Confidence allows you to engage with a reporter as an equal and enthusiastic participant, control enables you to communicate your key messages clearly and concisely and credibility means you’re believable.
The concept of "control" includes monitoring your demeanor, messages, and overall presentation. You should appear knowledgeable, likeable, trustworthy and convincing. Take an active role in steering the interview, creating opportunities to proactively tell your story, rather than being pulled along passively by the reporter. Preparation is key.
To effectively assert your agenda, express your thoughts in a clear, concise, convincing manner. Many interviews are brief, so don’t count on being able to convey every point you’d like to make. Consider the most important "message points" that you want to share. The best way to determine your key message points is to determine the specific goal(s) of the interview. Ultimately, what do you want the audience to do?
Support/oppose legislation? Buy your product? Invest in your company? Follow your social media platforms? Take another action?
Consider these tips:
Have three messages to convey. Decide on your key message points before the interview. What are the three most important things that you want people to know/do/believe?
Think like an attorney. A lawyer would never say, “He’s guilty!” without offering evidence to back up that claim. Your messages should be backed up by facts, statistics and other proof points.
Practice. I can’t emphasize this enough. Role play with a friend or colleague, rehearse aloud in front of a mirror. Professional actors and athletes practice before they’re in the spotlight – so should you. Don’t memorize your answers – you don’t want to sound “scripted” – but know your content well and deliver it naturally.
Anticipate questions. Prepare your answers for easy questions and potentially challenging or controversial ones. If you find yourself stuck without an answer, it’s OK to say “I’ll need to get back to you on that later.” And then do.
Be clear and concise. Give short, compelling answers – not longwinded diatribes. You don’t need to share every single detail.
Block and bridge. "Blocking" means avoiding an unwelcome or unproductive question, something that’s hostile or controversial, a hypothetical choice or a request for information that you can't disclose. "Bridging" means taking the discussion from unfriendly to friendly territory. Block and bridge with phrases like, "It's our policy not to discuss that specifically, but I can tell you ..." Blocking and bridging is particularly useful in situations involving controversy or crisis.
Don’t say “no comment.” If you can’t answer a specific question, explain why (e.g., proprietary information, lawsuit pending, etc.) and bridge to one of your message points. A good rule of thumb: if you’re asked about a problem, talk about a solution. Dodging the question only raises a red flag.
Provide “headlines.” Flag key points with phrases like, "The most important thing is ..." or "I think the bottom line is ..."
Speak in understandable terms. Avoid jargon and use simpler words instead.
Use illustrations and anecdotes. Saying "enough widgets to fill Yankee Stadium" is more powerful (and easier to visualize) than saying "75,000 widgets."
Don’t get provoked. This is so important – and speaks to control – especially if you’re speaking about something potentially divisive or controversial. Don’t allow yourself to become upset or angry. This is true in the interview, as well as in associated social media comment threads. Pause, if necessary, to take deep breaths. Stay professional and on message even when it feels like you or your point of view are being attacked. Once you get provoked, it’s very difficult to recover.
Be honest. If you’re caught in a lie, you’ll lose all credibility – with the reporter and key audiences. If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess or fake it. Say you’ll find out and get back to the reporter by their deadline. Or suggest another resource that could provide the necessary information.
To help prevent the media interview jitters, consider adopting a pre-interview ritual that involves a few moments of calm – such as meditation or breathing exercises. Remind yourself the interview is a great opportunity to tell your story. If you do it well, you’ll likely persuade key audiences to support your business, mission or issue.
Stefanie Guzikowski is founder/president of Portsmouth-based E & G Public Relations, LLC, which specializes in helping clients achieve a competitive edge, build awareness in their marketplace and ultimately grow their business. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 817-9464. For more information, visit www.egpublicrelations.com.