There is no substitute for a good conversation – with whoever. But, interviews are not conversations: It’s the media’s opportunity to get a story. Your job is to tell your story, your way – you don’t have to answer the question asked!
To improve your media skills, you need to prepare, prepare, prepare! I’ve said it 3 times because it’s THAT important! Even if you do interviews frequently, you’ll benefit from rehearsal: Practicing bridging and flagging techniques, trying out answers to tough questions, or simply hearing the words come out of your mouth. Have a colleague role play as the reporter and ask you a few questions while you go through the 9 golden rules for interview preparedness:
- Never lie
- Never say “no comment”
- There is no “off the record”, so you can better ask “Can I see the quotes before you use them? When’s your deadline? Do you need pictures?”
- Be short, get to the point and always think of the audience
- Stay confident and look at the interviewer (you don’t have anything to hide, do you?). When seated, lean forward slightly. This posture will give you a sense of energy and make you look like an active storyteller, rather than a passive person who is there just to answer questions.
- Use simple language, avoid jargon, bridge and flag where appropriate: “Is there a particular angle you want to take, or should we just talk generally?” “Would you be interested in talking about …?”
- Stay in control. Remember you’re doing the interview because you have a story to tell. Stick to your position, no matter how many times they ask.
- Don’t speculate: It’s OK to say “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”.
- Relax! In the end, reporters want to talk with people who sound like regular human beings. They don’t want to interview people who merely sound like they are reading a press release or prepared statement.