When I was a journalist in Melbourne, it amazed me how many interviewees – especially pre-booked ones – weren’t able to clearly make their point because they were scared to be on camera or radio, even as a pre-record.
Journalists interview for two types of news stories: soft news (generic, light and fluffy) and hard news (breaking news: politics, crime etc). A scared interviewee is very hard to interview for soft news stories because the quotes just don’t flow. And they’re equally as frustrating for hard news stories because they don’t have the ability to break things down in a simple and easy to understand manner.
They aren’t “Good Talent”.
The phrase “Good Talent” is a common term in the media industry to describe a great interviewee. A nudge to your fellow journalist, a nod towards a person walking past, and the words “Good Talent” are all you need to indicate someone who is great on camera.
But not everyone is Good Talent straight off the bat. I spent so much time with interviewees (for soft stories anyway), trying to help them say what they really meant in a concise, memorable and quotable way to make them into Good Talent that it became my mantra and eventually, the name of my business.
I want to create a generation of amazing spokespeople. It’s a skill you have for life, not just the media. You can use it socially, at work, in your relationships, anywhere you need to speak clearly and make an impact on the spot.
But it’s especially useful if you want to be seen as a leader in your industry and are looking to increase your profile and build your brand.
The media is only interested in you as the CEO, Director or Chairman of your organisation if you can give it newsworthy insights into your industry. If you can do that in an enlightening, understandable, relevant and ‘cuttable’ way, you will be seen as media gold. Because television, radio, and newspapers are still the cheapest form of advertising you can get and reach a massive audience, if you can become Good Talent, you will be asked back again and again by journalists because you help them create stories they’re proud to produce and that will be clicked and shared thousands of times.
When I work with spokespeople, these are the qualities I emphasise to help them become Good Talent:
Most spokespeople and CEOs look at an interview as something they have to survive. They wait for the reporter to ask questions, so they answer and get it over with, often in an uninspiring manner or in a way that only someone in their industry would understand. What they don’t realise is they can use the interview to achieve great things for their organisation.
When you’re a spokesperson, you have an opportunity few people get: to influence audiences, inspire change, educate, motivate and set the record straight.
You need to go into the interview with a goal. It could be that you want to rally the community to support a fundraising drive for a disease, inform the public about the work you’re doing with the homeless, or even show how you support a certain action or industry. You do this by delivering messages and telling stories to a specific target audience that you’re trying to reach.
Journalists are looking for news. They want interviewees who stand for something, who have an opinion on a topic that moves the audience and matters to them. But you can only stand out when you believe you have the ability to do it.
Good Talents understand that they can influence interviews and audiences.
If you’ve ever been interviewed, were you surprised by the kind of questions you were asked? Many people are, because they expect the journalist to already know everything about their topic.
But most journalists are assigned interviews that they may have never researched before or have much care for. Each question they ask is research on the run or, to put it another way, an opportunity for you to make your points and achieve your goal. But you need to have messages prepared for a specific target audience you have in mind, that are designed to make them think, feel, do or believe something.
“We’re calling on the Andrews government to get serious about ending homelessness and put 100 million dollars aside in this year’s budget to build 100,000 new homes in Melbourne’s inner north by 2020.”
In this message, it’s clear who the target audience is and what I want them to do. I would then support this message with a real, emotional story about a homeless family who would benefit from this initiative and some statistics on the problem that highlight why it should be solved. And all this would be ready the day before the journalist arrives for the interview.
Great speakers rarely step up to a microphone and wing it. At the very least, they have prepared enough to know the audience they’re trying to reach and what they’re trying to achieve.
Good Talents know their messages inside and out, can back them up, and make people feel.
There are people who get in front of a camera and talk so articulately that they must do it for a living. But many spokespeople only experience a handful of interviews in their lifetime, so what’s their secret?
Interviews don’t happen in the quiet of your mind. You need to practise out loud. You need to practise in front of your staff and family. You need to practise out loud on your way to the studio. Articulating your messages and stories out loud will show you what’s working and what’s not, and it’ll also highlight your best phrases. That’s the gold you need to repeat over and over in the interview.
You also need to anticipate what you might be asked and practise answering it briefly before getting back to your main points. All practise is good practice.
Anyone can become Good Talent
Good Talents may seem naturally talented, but everyone has the potential to become a Good Talent. If you’re ready to step up to the microphone and see it as an opportunity, coupled with enough preparation and practice, then you can own that title too.
What area do you struggle with when it comes to interviews?
Tell us below in the comments section.
Want to get your staff media-ready?
We provide 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