Twenty-two years as a journalist and eighteen years as the CEO of the global communications-coaching firm Clarity Media Group have afforded Bill McGowan a certain amount of insight into the most effective strategies for interview subjects in a media interview. Sometimes it can be an elaborate chess game, so he shared his 10 best tips for thinking several moves ahead.
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1. Never Skirt the Truth
The truth is non-negotiable. You can never lie in your dealings with the media. This doesn’t mean that you have to spill your guts as though you’ve been injected with sodium pentothal, but as history has proven so many times, the fallout from a coverup is almost always worse than the crime.
2. Know Your Center of Gravity
Keep the preparation for a media interview simple. Keep your main message (your headline thought) basic and succinct and come up with two complementary, but different-sounding ways of communicating the same idea. This will help you not sound like a broken record when you keep driving back to the main message.
3. Come Armed with Stories
Sharing only “key talking points” during a media interview will not get the job done if your goal is to be memorable. You must also illustrate your points through anecdotes and relatable examples. That’s because studies have shown that when you take factual information and you embed them within stories, what you say is 22 times more memorable than merely fire hosing facts at people.
4. Know Your Doomsday Question
In the preparation process, honestly ask yourself, “what’s the question I hope I don’t get?” If there’s an Achilles Heel in your story (or your company’s) or something unflattering/controversial from the past that might come up in a web search, then a journalist will not only find it, but will likely ask you about it.
5. Create a Sound Bite/Quote in Advance
If you don’t want to be completely helpless during the journalist’s selection process of deciding which of your quotes to use, then exert some influence by framing your best points in a form most reporters find too irresistible to pass up: an analogy or a metaphor. A well-crafted analogy is a great way to land the quote you were hoping to land.
6. Scout Your Opponent
Even if the dynamic of your upcoming interview is friendly and benign, research the journalist who will be interviewing you. By reading prior articles they’ve written or on-air interviews they’ve done, you can get a sense if they have any preconceived notions or agendas about you, your company or your industry going into the interview.
7. Don’t Sound Over-Messaged
If there’s one thing reporters can’t stand, it's interview subjects who sound as though they are reading straight off a key message document. The paradox of the media interview is to be fully prepared with your points and illustrations (anecdotes/examples) but to sound spontaneous and thoughtful.
8. Make a Personal Connection
Journalists are human beings who like to be treated with warmth and respect like everybody else. Try to establish some kind of genuine rapport with them. Show a little interest in them as a person and a professional. They will not have as favorable an impression of you if you treat them like some interchangeable cog in your PR machinery.
9. Display Enthusiasm
Your definition of success should never be to get through the interview technically clean without any small slip ups. Your goal should be to demonstrate an enthusiasm for the value and importance of the information you’re sharing. Smile. Try to genuinely show that you have been looking forward to telling your story to this journalist.
10. Warm Up
No successful professional, whether it be an opera singer or a baseball player, starts a performance without warming up. Forty-five minutes before your interview, give a list of three or four questions to a colleague or a friend and have them fire away at you. Answer them out loud exactly as you plan to in the upcoming interview.
If you are interested in training with Clarity Media Group, email email@example.com for more information.