In our last blog post, we discussed how message coaching and media training sessions help a company spokesperson learn to clearly and concisely communicate during a media interview. Framing your messages is one-half of the equation for a successful media interview; interview techniques comprise the other half.
During these sessions, we give three tips that we’ve found are essential to a successful media interview:
1. Keep your answers short. For most answers, this means saying the equivalent of no more than a few short paragraphs if you were writing it out. Keeping answers short helps you stick to your main points and allows for more give and take with the reporter.
Sometimes a pause or break might occur during an interview. Don’t fear the silence. The reporter is likely taking notes or processing what you just said. It’s easy to feel uncomfortable with this silence, especially during a phone interview, but don’t be tempted to fill the silence.
Rambling can lead to you telling the reporter more than you intended. It also doesn’t allow room for the reporter to ask follow-up questions which means they can’t get straight to the facts they need for the story. It also increases the chance that your comments could be taken out of context.
2. You don’t have to answer a question. The caveat is that you need to have a good reason for not answering it, such as a pending court case or police investigation, for example. Or, you might need to gather additional information, or you may not be the best resource.
Explain why you can’t answer the question and make an effort to be helpful in getting the reporter the needed information however you can.
For instance, if you don’t know the answer to a question, offer to connect the reporter with a person who is able to address the question. Or let the reporter know you need to gather more information and you’ll call or e-mail back.
3. Nothing is “off the record.” You must be constantly aware of what you say, including before and after the interview, and especially when asked about your competition or about someone’s character. Even if your comment is not included in a story, it will likely be repeated.
This tip applies to any interaction, regardless of time or place. Anything you say in public should be something you’re comfortable seeing in print.
These three tips form a strong foundation for a successful media interview. Follow these guidelines and you will have a good chance of being quoted accurately in a story, and called again to serve as an expert resource.