After 15 years working in the media industry as a reporter, producer and presenter and then another 10 years working with hundreds of clients across the sector on how to engage with the media, Arti Halai looks at how to make the most of media interviews.
Time and again, media interviews go wrong for the same few reasons. Lack of preparation, saying nothing of relevance or just waffling, appearing uncomfortable, uncaring or disinterested, not responding fast enough, especially in a crisis situation or forgetting you have a mic on!
These mistakes are unforgivable and really should never happen.
From taking part in a podcast to appearing on national television, media interviews offer great opportunities to get your message to a wider audience in the most credible way. But only if you know what you are doing.
The first thing to master is your mindset. In the vast majority of situations, you must understand that the reporter is not out to get you, they just want to tell the story. They need you, just as much as you need them. View it as a level playing field and a solid opportunity to share your message, raise your profile, save time and money. Another tip for you, if the word ‘media interview’ conjures up negative words then change them to something more positive like ‘sharing information’ or ‘having a conversation.’
There is no substitute for preparation but before we get to the crux of creating clear messages, ask yourself why are you doing the interview? You need to understand what you want to achieve from the output. Sometimes people get so focused on the questions that they forget all about the audience. Big mistake. What do you want the audience to do or think about post- interview? You’ll never predict all the questions a journalist will ask you, so the best approach is to work through a range of questions – but the real key to success lies in your messages. You need three or four messages that are short, simple and succinct that you can keep weaving into your answers. Do not ignore the journalist’s questions, we’ve seen time and again how the interviewer responds when it happens!
The more comfortable you are with what you are saying, the better your delivery will be. This is because your mind is not racing ahead trying to answer the question and think about the next one – you are focused on your answer. This only works when you are crystal clear on your key messages. Think about how you talk to friends or colleagues – it feels easy because you don’t have to think too hard about what you are going to say next.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Remember, first impressions count so make sure your image reflects your organisation or business. Think about it, a young IT person being interviewed in a suit and tie doesn’t look right but would look perfect on someone from the professional services. Eye contact is fundamental as is smiling, if appropriate as this helps relax the facial muscles;
Ultimately, your performance, comfort and confidence can be summed up in this – practice, practice, practice. There is no substitute. Trust me, the outcome really will be worth it!
Arti Halai is one of FSC’s co-founders. To find out more about the award-winning media training services FSC offers, email firstname.lastname@example.org