Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Better media interviews: 15 tips and resources

Forget the reporter: Most of the time, the mistakes that you fear in a media interview are the ones in which you trip yourself up. (We don't call this blog don't get caught for nothing, you know.) Here are 15 small steps, tips, tests, and resources you can use to keep your interview, and yourself, on track:
  1. Keep it short: If your answers are so long-winded that you get cut off thinking "But there's more I had to say" in an interview, you should learn how long the modern soundbite is. Think single digits, in seconds. Besides, a short answer gives the reporter a chance to do his job and ask another question. Be sure you leave time for him, too.
  2. Use your message wisely, not too well: Once you've figured out what you want to say, how do you use that message in an interview without repeating it like a robot?
  3. Remember: You don't have all the answers: Have you overstepped or overstated something just to come up with an answer? No need. In fact, sometimes "I don't know" is the most valuable thing you can contribute, especially if you're an expert. Here's how to fix that or avoid it in the first place.
  4. Check the calendar: Using an analogy to answer a media question crisply and vividly is a great idea. But is your analogy out of date? Then it may hurt more than help.
  5. Can your metaphor work against you? Metaphors and analogies also can be turned around to make the point you don't want to see. Check out some tests for how to avoid that boomerang.
  6. Step carefully through that answer: The devil's in the complex question, so it pays to think through how to answer them and avoid the chance of getting misquoted.
  7. Watch for the traps you set yourself:  There are lots of ways you can get caught when you're answering a reporter's question--and most of them are traps of your own making, not the reporter's. In some cases, correcting your impulses will make for a better interview for both of you.
  8. Your turn to ask: You get to ask questions in an interview, too. Here are 12 questions to ask reporters--some suggested by journalists--that will help you feel better prepared and yield a better interview.
  9. Find other ways to buy time: Stop saying "That's a very good question" as a way to buy time before you answer a media interview question. It's a longer version of "um," I'm afraid. I've got ideas for how you can better advance the interview, redirect the question or clarify a misperception.
  10. Respond, don't react, to questions: If you disagree with the reporter in the middle of a recorded interview, that might become the story. A real-life case study with suggestions for doing it differently. In general, it's a good idea to remember that you should respond--not react--to the reporter's question.
  11. Answer the question: You may be tempted to dodge or evade the reporter's question, but viewers are getting better at deciding whether your answer is on point. Your credibility may be at stake.
  12. Get to the point: How interview answers differ from lectures: If you keep telling the interviewer that you're going to tell him soon the answer to his question, he (and the audience) might not want to wait around. Here's how to stop that bad habit and get to the point faster.
  13. Making news all on your own? Sometimes the "interview" isn't an interview. You might become an accidental broadcaster and make news another way. Here's how to avoid making that kind of misstep.
  14. Correct yo'self: Don't wait till the interview's over, then complain about mistakes. Instead, use the two opportunities you have to make corrections--both of them right during the interview--to have a pain-free result.
  15. When training helps: If you're facing a particular kind of interview, you might need more specialized media training. Here's what to ask for. I'd be glad to work with you on your preparations, whether you are building skills you can use again and again or focused on a particular interview. Email me at eloquentwoman AT gmail DOT com.
While you're at it, check out 8 things you can do to ensure you get called again for an interview. It's the real goal for every interview interaction.
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