Have you ever watched an interview on TV and thought, ‘Ooo that did not go well.’
Do you know why you thought that?
Probably because the interviewee seemed like they didn’t really have a point. They were having a conversation while you were waiting for that moment where you really understood their message.
Many people make the mistake of treating interviews as conversations, they aim to answer all of the journalist’s questions and come across as being friendly. They think that’s what you’re supposed to do. The journalist is the bad guy right and you’re the good guy giving great answers, but the journalist is still giving you a hard time. Surely the audience sees this and is on your side. “This is going well,” you think to yourself.
Unfortunately, this poorly chosen tactic of only answering the reporters’ questions, takes away your ability to make your point and is most likely to leave the audience thinking you have nothing strong or important to say.
Interviews are not conversations; they are opportunities to deliver messages and achieve goals. If you choose to be interviewed (and it is a choice), it’s a time for you to:
- stand for something
- achieve something
- increase your profile
- increase your company’s profile
- call for government funding
- call for legislation changes
- educate your target market
- promote yourself or promote your industry
- be seen as an industry leader
- provide another perspective on an existing story
- protect your reputation
- get the real story out there and correct inaccuracies
And the list goes on.
Your interview should have a goal, and you need to stick to that goal no matter what.
Remember, just because you’re being interviewed doesn’t mean the interview will be used or the story will get up. If you come across as an expert who can answer every conceivable question on your given topic, you’re making it impossible for a journalist to write a specific story, on a specific angle, using a specific case study to support that angle. This is what a journalist is looking for and you need to give it to them so you can achieve your publicity goals.
Here are the three biggest problems that you’ll encounter if you treat media interviews like conversations:
You answer the questions
This doesn’t sound like a problem – when someone asks you a question, you answer it. In conversations, yes, that’s absolutely fine. But in an interview?
The problem isn’t in answering questions. It’s when that’s all you do. A sentence won’t cut it, nor will long, rambling stories.
Journalists are insanely busy and a lot of the time, they’re would prefer to be covering the AFL Grand Final or another story that they’ve missed out on, instead of talking to you. So your job is to make them interested and help them shape a story that’s newsworthy.
With every question, spend the first two lines of your answers (15% of your time) responding to the question and most of your time (85% of your time) telling your stories that make your point and deliver your messages. This structure is very important, because your answers often determine the nature of the next question.
By telling your story or making your points right from the start, you will influence the questions to come and have much more control over the interview and the end story.
You act too casual and speak normally
As I mentioned at the start of this post, being casual is for conversations. Interviews require a degree of ‘animation’ to help sell your story, because the story alone isn’t enough. This animation is made up of two parts: body language and voice projection.
Body language is important in any conversation, but even more so in an interview. If you sit with your shoulders rounded, slumping slightly in your seat with your arms folded while speaking passionately about saving abandoned puppies, then the audience will think you don’t really care. Actions speak louder than words, in this case. Make sure you use appropriate body language to match the message you want to get across.
Speaking of louder, your voice will need a boost when being interviewed. I don’t mean shouting, but you will need to talk slightly louder than normal to ensure you come across as an authority. Enunciation is key here.
Remember, if you don’t care about what you’re talking about, why should anyone else?
You expect the journalist to be really interested
When you get asked for an interview, you might think the journalist is really interested in you and your story. They’re interviewing you to make sure the right story is told.
Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
The journalist’s job is to present a story that captures an audience’s attention. And if you don’t make a point or stand for something, the journalist will use whatever you’ve given them and write a story based on that.
Interviewees that have conversations with reporters will often complain the story was ‘poorly written’ or that they’ve been ‘taken out of context’.
That’s because they focussed on the reporter, not their own message.
You’re completely in the control of your answers. At no point during a media interview will they say, “It’s time to tell your story now.”, “It’s time to make your point now.”, or “Ignore that question make your point again.” Instead, random, impertinent, emotional and devil’s advocate-style questions will flow one after another and it’s up to you whether you disregard it, or answer it briefly and go on to tell your stories, deliver your messages and achieve your goals.
What’s the point in doing media if there isn’t something in it for you and your organization?
Remember it’s about your message, not the reporter.
So the next time you are scheduled for an interview, take the time to prepare. It’s not a conversation.
How have you had an interview that didn’t go so well?
Tell us below in the comments section.
Want to get your staff media-ready?
We provide media training led by experienced journalist Tony Nicholls, who has covered international stories and worked for many of Australia’s major news networks. Find out more about the types of media training we offer here.
Founder and Director of Good Talent Media