Media training is key to becoming a good spokesperson, especially if you are an entrepreneur, coach, or consultant who is trying to establish yourself as the go-to expert in your field. It helps you better communicate your core messages and story to the press and to your audience. It also teaches you how to steer clear of problematic or contentious questions.
It is important to know what to say and what not to say and to deliver your key message points in a clear, succinct manner. Here are some tips for a winning interview:
Media Ground Rules
- There is no such thing as “off the record”. If you happen to have a good relationship with a reporter, or if they are one of the few truly ethical ones, then you can agree to “off the record”, but proceed with caution. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your audience to know about you, your company, or your product or service.
- The best way to tell reporters about your company, product or service is to offer the “Why?” rather than the “What?” Why is your company/product important? Don’t just repeat the company mission statement or “About Us”. Don’t regurgitate a bunch of technobabble. Be real.
- Don’t say too much. Remain focused on critical points. Avoid providing a bunch of unnecessary facts. An interview is not an opportunity to download your knowledge. It’s about prioritizing your knowledge and proving why you are the expert. Remain focused on critical points and give any facts context and meaning. Also, avoid going off topic and terms such as “Oh, by the way?” or “that reminds me”… Always try to stay focused and on point.
- Speak to your audience, not to the reporter. His or her audience is also your audience so make sure you communicate the key messages you want your audience to know.
- Don’t “wing it”. No matter how much you know about your topic, press interviews can be intimidating. It’s always best to be prepared.
- Never say “no comment”.
- Remember that you’re in control. Ask for what you need to feel comfortable, whether that’s a glass of water or a moment to collect your thoughts.
- Speak clearly and articulately. Avoid using slang terms, Streamline your speech and avoid casual terms such as “like” or “you know”, or “you know what I’m saying?”. Also, mind the “ummms” and “ahhhs” and stammering. I suggest joining Toastmasters to help you home-in on your interview skills. You can also practice in front of a mirror, or get a colleague to do a mock interview on camera.
- Don’t chew gum or eat during any interview.
Phone Interview Essentials
- Have prepared notes of the key points you want to deliver.
- Don’t sit at your desk where you will be easily distracted by emails, visitors, phone, etc.
- Use a headset so you can use your hands for gesturing. It allows you to be more conversational.
- Stand and smile through your interview. It helps you to remain calm and conversational.
- Make sure you’re using a phone with good sound quality or a mobile phone with good coverage.
- Feel free to ask a reporter to repeat or clarify a question, repeat what you just said back to you, or ask if your answer made sense. If you don’t know the answer to something, or if you don’t feel comfortable answering a particular question, tell the reporter that you will get back to him/her.
- Avoid being misquoted! Don’t let silence bother you so you feel you need to keep talking through it. The reporter is probably taking notes. Stick to your point and let them come back with questions.
On- Camera Interviews
- Don’t fidget.
- Practice good posture. Stand or sit with your hands in your lap or clasped in front of you. Don’t stand or sit with you arms crossed.
- Dress according to the occasion. If it’s a business-related interview, wear business casual attire. If you’re being interviewed while building homes in a Third World Country, then attire that fits that occasion is best.
- Don’t look into the camera. Always maintain eye contact with the interviewer.
When it comes to damage control or crisis communications, maintain message consistency. A reporter will likely ask you the same question multiple times in multiple ways in an effort to confuse you, challenge you, maybe even frustrate you in an effort to get you to stray from your message, or maybe even to get you to lose your composure. Always stick to your message regardless of how many times a reporter asks the same question or how many ways they rephrase it.
Finally: RELAX! You’re not on trial. A reporter is not there to harm you. He or she is there to satisfy their editors and their audience, which is also your audience. If it’s a crisis communications situation, have a script and key talking points and stick to them. Practice and repeat them several times before the interview so you are fully prepared and sound natural.
Want to become the go-to expert in your field so you can attract your ideal clients, increase your audience and establish credibility? Drop me a line email@example.com