Media training has never been more important than it is now because we live in a 24/7 breaking news environment. Succinct sound bites and interview prep are critical for conducting a stellar media interview—but the reality today is our attention is being bombarded 24/7 with everything from horrific news like school shootings to a political landscape that is as precarious as it is distracting.
What this means is reporters are scrambling to cover breaking news and there is less room for feature news or live segments on the latest trends—reflecting the ever-changing media landscape. But opportunities still exist, though more rare and coveted, to shine as a spokesperson. How can you make sure you absolutely ace your next interview and stand out in an unforgiving media environment?
- Prep, prep, prep: Steve Jobs wasn’t born a natural spokesperson. Check out this 1978 prep for his first live broadcast interview. As you can see, he was far from the smooth, articulate and sound bite-fueled spokesperson we came to know through the decades. Make sure you approach each interview with the three points you want to get across: write them down and practice saying them out loud or, even better, rehearse in front of a colleague or friend. This prep will ensure that, no matter how the interview goes, you will have these points top of mind and can always revert to them. Make sure you also do your homework about what the reporter covers and read his or her latest articles. Your PR team will prepare briefing documents for you: read through them carefully.
- Be Proactive: Be prepared to answer questions about how your particular topic and expertise plays into the larger trends in our world today. This will make you more relevant, engaging and quotable.
- Pivot: Saying “no comment” never works. It makes you look defensive and signals discomfort. Instead, block negative questions and bridge to the topic you would like to address. For example, if a reporter seems to be digging for dirt on the competition, instead of replying that you can’t talk about that or (worse) that you have no competition, say something like, “We work in a dynamic sector and meeting the needs of our customers is our number one priority right now.”
- Educate and Build a Relationship: The reality is you most likely know more about the topic you are being interviewed on than the reporter. This makes you a credible source to whom the reporter can go back to time and time again. Nurture that relationship and take it seriously.
- If You Dread It, You Will Get It: Ask yourself which question you are least prepared for and then practice your answer. No doubt your instincts are right and you inevitably will be asked questions about your competition, your differentiators and customers.
At the end of the day, the media will always need great spokespeople to personalize their stories and reach their target audience. So channel your inner Steve Jobs or find someone you admire as a spokesperson, do your prep, and get ready to reach the masses.