If you, loyal reader, have been following my procession of advisement–deliberately sequenced to capitalize your professional profile–and incorporating that wisdom into your own operations, by now you are ready to tackle the next phase of a prominent figure’s career: the media interview.
Should you execute a successful public relations campaign or establish yourself as the city’s preeminent authority in your professional field, prepare for the media to come querying. And because the media interview is an invaluable opportunity to further your credibility amongst both clientele and general public alike, you should be both familiar with its processes and the manner in which you will field answers so the performance yields full impact–one whose message makes for dynamic television viewing.
Whether such an occasion is booked for next week or remains at the moment a pipe dream, consider the following appropriate for any circumstances involving live interface and extemporaneous exchange you might confront in your typical business operations. After all, luck favors the prepared:
- Research: After courted by a journalist and securing air-time, in advance watch the program on which you will appear, noting the querying style and nuances of the interviewer, and also to gain a sense of overall genre and audience appeal. Then tailor your message and delivery specifically to suit them. The morning of your interview, browse both local and international business news: in addition to the rehearsed topic, the interviewer may toss in a question or two about any current issue of the moment. Primary publications for review are The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and your local city paper (The Albuquerque Journal). If you’ve time while getting ready, watch The Today Show, Good Morning America, or Fox News.
- Prior to the Interview: Recall that your goal is to initiate long-term relationships with the media; hence convey your willingness to cooperate with the reporter and discuss the primary information s/he would like covered for the best angle. Also have your own agenda in mind for those key points you want to communicate regarding yourself, the company, your expertise, the market, and so forth. Reviewing your company’s positioning statement and working it naturally into your opening remarks is always a good bet.
- Performance: Energy and enthusiasm may sound cliché, but in truth are very effective. Before the camera starts rolling, turn up your own ‘voltage’ so to speak by brightening up your entire demeanor and amping your natural vigor a notch. Remember to smile–it works wonders on camera, particularly when genuine and not forced; you can create an authentic smile instantly by thinking of your family.
- Keep your answers brief, pithy, and when possible, memorable. “Quotable quotes” are the ideal of every journalist, guaranteed to be remembered and used primarily for television as they create phenomenal clips ready for re-roll or cut and paste edits. Need one in a pinch? If you’ve a clever corporate, product, or service tag line, work it in (just be certain to test that tag line against a subjective audience for its reaction prior to using it live; never use material without a solid grasp of the response it provokes!).
- Dialogue: Always attempt to answer the questions put forth to you when possible, but then bridge in your agenda. Remember DAM: diffuse the question, answer it, and Make points from your outline. When you don’t have answers to specific questions, compliment the reporter on the nature of the query and then subtly use the opportunity as a bridge; when you cannot skit away so deftly, directly tell the audience you will submit the forthcoming information promptly. Lastly, if you are presented with an incorrect assumption, do NOT repeat it; rather reply, “that is not correct. Let me tell you what is…” and politely inform the reporter of factual details.
- Do’s and Don’ts: DO be prepared to cite compelling statistics, anecdotes, personal experience, expert testimony, and objective evidence whenever possible, keeping in mind your own expertise and status but also appealing to the largest audience possible, and grounding your details in authority others will recognize and appreciate. Balance technical terms with layman’s so as not to appear superior, but channel communication. DO say the product or company name in lieu of “we,” however DON’T mention a competitor by name–the competition is always “they.” Also, rarely is it appropriate to comment upon a competitor’s activities, even when prompted.
- DON’T discuss political or religious affiliations unless you are the representative of one or on a topic panel–naturally you’ve a right to your opinions as does everyone else, but you don’t want to alienate half your potential clientele over one of two choices to a question. Finally, never insult anyone, even indirectly or in jest–their services, products, research, personnel. Remember, nothing is off the record: this includes prior to taping, after wrap, in the green room. You are responsible for your opinions–all of them, so be accountable!