A Media Interview is a Bad Time for Original Thought
I remember the first time I watched skiers gliding so gracefully and effortlessly down the snowy slopes at Park City, Utah. “How easy that looks,” I thought to myself. “I think I could do that.” No lessons and one broken wrist later I thought differently.
Giving media interviews without professional media relations training is much like going skiing without ever taking a lesson. Without the guidance of a ski instructor, you have virtually no control of how you will get to the bottom of the slope. The mountain, and gravity, controls you. You will get off to a wobbly start, fall a lot, get confused, have bad form, use the poles incorrectly, and probably plunge head-first into an embankment a few times. Sure, you will eventually get down the hill but the trip will be painful. And trust me, no one who saw you fumble and crash your way down the slope will want to ski with you again.
The same can be said of media interviews. Media training makes all the difference between delivering a smooth, controlled interview and an interview disaster. Reporters primarily want two things: An interesting story and an interesting person to interview. They also want someone who can break down the technical and insider jargon into easy to understand language. The person being interviewed has to deliver information the reporter’s viewers or readers want to hear. As one CFO put it, “Knowing my business is only about a fourth of what I need to know before doing an interview.”
Sure, an untrained spokesperson may get through the first interview, but if he or she is not compelling, reporters usually look elsewhere for future interviews. Reporters talk to each other. Word spreads quickly when an interviewee is hard to follow, talks a lot but says nothing, is uninteresting, or unfriendly. Once someone has been branded as a “bad interview” reporters look for other sources-usually the interviewee’s competitors.
Why? It all comes down to revenue. A trained interview subject will give a better interview, which equals a good story, which equals a larger viewer or reading audience, which equals more revenue for the media outlet. And when an interview is handled correctly, it can also equate to a revenue boost for the interviewee’s organization.
When delivered skillfully, a media interview can result in a company being viewed as an industry leader with a credible and compelling management team. This can result in an avalanche of on-going, positive, and free publicity that no amount of paid advertising can buy. Handled weakly it can result in few opportunities for future interviews, or worse, a negative portrayal of the interviewee or his or her organization.
Media interviews, whether print or broadcast, are free publicity; and the publicity can be favorable or unfavorable, depending on how well you handle interview questions. Stakeholders love reading good things about their organization in the paper or trade.
publications. Potential shareholders and customers usually make decisions about their next investment based on what they have read about a company.
The trick is knowing how to use media interview opportunities to effectively promote your organization’s products, services, or positions on important issues. And simply being extremely knowledgeable about your organization’s products, services, and positions on issues is not enough to impress a reporter. That is where a professional media trainer’s expertise comes in.
Like ski lessons, there is a structure to delivering an effective interview. Skilled, professional media relations training can teach you how to break the process down into easy steps so responses are much smoother and the interview is more beneficial to the interview subject and his or her organization. A good media trainer knows what reporters want from an interview and can teach how to approach an interview from that angle. A good media trainer will also:
- teach what should be investigated regarding different audiences (things most interviewees never think about)
- show how to use solid industry knowledge to develop strong and impressive messages that the public will remember.
- teach how to handle tough questions without ever sounding nervous or defensive.
- teach how to deliver, short, memorable quotes.
- give tips on how to be perceived as a well-informed and helpful interview subject by reporters (which means reporters will call you often for your prospective on other industry issues)
Anyone who has ever skied will admit that no one is a natural-born, skier. The best ones took lessons at some point. The great ones continue working with coaches to become even better.
The same is true of corporate executives and organizational leaders. A recent survey showed that 87% of CEOs from Fortune 500 companies work with media trainers on an on-going basis to ensure they are quoted accurately and often by the top media outlets.
Every reporter prefers interviewing someone who provides useful and interesting information in a concise manner. With professional media relations training, coaching, and regular practice it is possible to win the respect of reporters by looking and sounding like a charismatic and credible interview pro as well as an expert on you industry.