How to prepare for a media interview

How to prepare for a media interview

May 20, 2016

A media interview is like a show on a theatre stage.

There are interactions between people with conflicting agendas, messages to convey to the audience and an art to delivering each message in an impactful way.

There are no second chances to impress. Critics are waiting to pounce on any errors or weaknesses. The repercussions of a poor performance can be huge.

Yet while a theatre show has a month or more of rehearsal time, many CEOs and senior executives may not practice at all for a media interview. Without proper preparation, media interviews become a high risk event which can damage personal and corporate reputations.

You can reduce the risks by having a dress rehearsal and using our five checks for media interview-readiness:

1. Road test the messaging.

Although your carefully crafted messaging may read well, how does it sound when spoken out loud? Very often, messaging in a press release is the result of a committee decision that doesn’t make for natural language.

One CEO we worked with needed to stop speaking like he was reading from the Report and Accounts, and recapture his natural character in interviews. Role-playing the results interview gave him a chance to sense-check and tweak key points and phrases after hearing how he sounded.

2. Dial up the pressure.

You may have a detailed three-page Q&A, but handling difficult questions in a real interview situation is a talent.  The way you respond can be just as important as your actual answer.

As well as being able to respond calmly and confidently to tough questions, you should rehearse how to ‘bridge’ back to positive messages. This will keep the conversation under your control.

3. Role-play different interviewing styles.

Journalists come in various guises – the very knowledgeable, the newbie, the aggressive questioner and the flatterer. You need to prepare for the full range of scenarios.

Are you able to adjust your use of jargon and technical detail to match the knowledge levels of the journalist? If you are a Cambridge professor by background, you may find it hard to keep things simple.

And how do you respond to extended silences or a pretty face – do you feel the need / wish to provide more information and stray off the prepared path?

4. Test retention of proof points and soundbites.

Under the pressure of the media interview, do you reach for the proof points as evidence for your assertions? Do you remember to sum up your arguments with carefully crafted soundbites?

Whether those proof points and soundbites take the form of stories, facts or figures, your ability to bring them to mind and deliver them smoothly will make all the difference to your credibility on the day.

5. Practice breeds confidence.

When the first results interview for a FTSE 100 client is a 7.15am phone call with Reuters, you want to feel and sound confident from the very start, not by the sixth interview over lunch.

A thorough road-testing of your messaging and stress-testing of your performance under pressure can make all the difference between a strong, confident interviewee and a mediocre one; great coverage or a missed opportunity.

——

With all the time and effort that goes into organising and preparing for a media interview, the best companies invest in expert media training.

Even if they are very experienced, the best executives always rehearse, just as an experienced actor would. After all, in the words of Shakespeare, ‘All the world’s a stage’…

Bring in the experts.

Whether you are in the middle of a crisis, preparing for a specific media interview or simply polishing your media handing skills ahead of your full-year results, bring in the experts.

Our media trainers – all former journalists – advise FTSE100 CEOs, global corporates and top executives on every type of media interview. We use tailored role play and on-camera coaching to ensure that you perform at your best under pressure.

For more information, click here, speak to Louise Angus on 020 7193 0130 or email her at louise@nullbenjaminball.com.

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