10 Do’s and Don’ts of Media Interviews

Every experienced spokesperson knows that there’s more to being a good interviewee than just the ability to answer questions. A skilled spokesperson must be able to handle uncomfortable questions, while, at the same time, managing to convey an organization’s point of view in a compelling and comprehensive manner.

Such a skillset is especially important during crisis situations, when an organization is under extreme scrutiny and there is an increased demand for explanations and commentary from its executives.

There are many aspects and components to professional media training programs, but for the sake of this blog, we’ll focus on the 10 do’s and don’ts everyone should remember while preparing for a media interview.

Do:

1. Get background information.
Try to learn more about your interviewer: what are his or her style, disposition, deadlines, etc.? What will the interview be about; key areas of focus?

2. Prepare.
Create a list of questions you might be asked during the interview. Map out your key messages and try to incorporate them into your answers. Then, practice.

3. Stay positive.
Regardless of the question you are asked, state your answers in a positive way. If a question starts with a negative assertion, find a way to rephrase it so that your answer is neither affirmative nor defensive.

4. Reiterate your key messages.
Come up with a few “bridges” that would allow you to transition from various questions to the key messages you need to convey. Try not to sound redundant and find a few different ways to reiterate your thoughts.

5. Explain how your arguments relate to the audience.
Remember to connect your arguments to the interests and concerns of your target audience.

Don’t:

1. Don’t lie.
This one is pretty straightforward, but it’s amazing how many people get swayed into lying when confronted with difficult questions. If you’re in the wrong, admit it and say what you are doing to improve.

2. Don’t speculate.
This is not quite as bad as lying but can still get you or your company in trouble. To avoid speculation refrain from making concrete statements when it comes to things you are not 100% sure of, or that may change in the future. If you don’t know something, just say so.

3. Don’t say “No comment.”
Never say “No comment,” unless you want to be perceived negatively or guilty by default. If you can’t answer a certain question, be polite and explain why.

4. Don’t lose your cool.
During interviews, you might get questions that may feel uncomfortable, provocative or even hostile. Nevertheless, you should always keep your composure and remain positive. Arguing or calling a reporter out on being biased will hardly result in better coverage.

5. Don’t answer hypothetical questions.

This is especially true for phone interviews that are meant to be published in print. Remember that the questions don’t always make it onto the page when the interview is published. In this case, your hypothetical answers can be misinterpreted or taken out of context, exposing you or your organization to unnecessary criticism.

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