media training tips on interviews

Deal with a journalist

Today I’ll be media training – by the time you read this I’ll be on the train en route to Cardiff. It will take me as long to get there as it did to reach Warsaw last week.

A few things come up quite frequently when I’m facilitating these sessions so here are some quick tips to make your media engagements pay better. All are based on experiences I’ve had in genuine press interviews:

  • Prepare but don’t overthink. People who have no idea what they need to get out of an interview and subsequent coverage have no way of measuring their success or lack thereof. However, I’ve run sessions in which, after a dummy interview, the client feeds back “I wondered what was behind the question”. Usually the answer is “nothing, I just thought the readers would be interested”, but people tie themselves in knots nonetheless.
  • Don’t assume the journalist works for you. I’ve had people call me after interviews and attempt to withdraw their quotes. You can’t actually un-say things and as long as I’ve identified myself as a journalist and obtained an accurate quote honestly I’m within my rights to use it. You can amend what you’ve said in marketing documents; an interview with a journalist isn’t one of them.
  • Related point: An interview isn’t an advert for your company. It’s independent so if you’re going to claim to be a market leader, number one in your field or anything related, expect to be asked for evidence.
  • Part of your preparation should be to reserve enough time to do the interview justice. Have a look at this video; it’s a disaster, fair enough, but if the cafe owner had been concentrating on the interview he could have done a great deal better.
  • A final related point is to work out the likely questions in advance. The video above is a terrible example; in a poor area of course someone’s going to ask about serving the local market. A prepared answer about offering a poverty-hit area jobs would have neutralised the issue completely. Instead we get a defensive reaction that does the interviewee no favours at all.

For information about my media training service please feel free to click on my media training page.

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