I've done media training for 16-years and I now see the same three things happening to mess up media interviews.
People Don't Prepare Properly
In a media interview there are only two things you can control – your preparation and what you say in the actual interview. That’s it. The reporter and media outlet decide what questions you’re going to be asked, how they’ll be asked, what part(s) of your interview with be used and what will be written and said about the story.
During the media training workshops I deliver, I tell people “Control what you can control and don’t worry about what you can’t”.
One thing you can control is your preparation. Anticipating the questions you’ll be asked helps you get off to a great start. If you spend a couple of minutes of thought, you can figure out many of the questions and you’ll be halfway home. What in your story would interest the public? What financial implications are there? If it’s a negative story, be ready to talk about who’s to blame and what will be done to make things better.
Once you have that short list of questions, spent a few minutes deciding how you’ll answer them. Keep your answers long enough to cover a key point or two, but don’t make them too long to take you into areas you shouldn’t be going. I find a good rule of thumb for answers is to have them last between 15-20 seconds. That’s just a guideline though. There are exceptions.
Finally, practice your answers. You will be amazed at how much more confident you’ll be and sound if you give your answers out loud at least a couple of times before the interview takes place. Pretend a reporter is asking you the questions on your list and then give your answers exactly the same way as you would in the interview.
There’s only so much you can control, but what you can control can make all the difference.
They're Not Selfish Enough
Too often people simply try to make it through a media interview without making a mistake. It’s like a tennis player going into a match trying not to lose instead of trying to win. There’s a difference.
When you do your preparation, determine how YOU want to answer questions. It may be the reporter’s story, but it is your interview.
It’s important to find ways to take the interview in the direction you want it to go. Make sure you find ways to bring up some important points to you that you want the public to know or be reminded of. Yes, you do need to answer the reporter’s questions, but how you answer them makes the difference. Don’t simply provide responses to the reporter’s questions. Find ways to talk about the things you want to talk about in the interview.
Sound bites can also be a very effective way to communicate your message. I did a short video on that. You can take a look at it here. It’s an excellent way to set you up for success in a media interview.
They Look Terrible in Video Interviews
Let’s move to the final challenge that so many people have these days – doing interviews over a video connection.
Since the pandemic started almost four years ago and most of us got used to using Zoom, Teams and other online platforms, TV outlets and bloggers doing interviews have made extensive use of the technology.
Even though people have been using video platforms for years, many are still doing it wrong. Terribly wrong.
The biggest mistake people continue to make is not looking at the camera when they answer questions from the reporter. They look at themselves talking on their computer monitor. That’s never a good look. Find the green light on your laptop or desktop and look at it when you’re giving your answers. That way, you’re talking to the reporter and your audience, instead of talking to yourself.
The other big mistake is not getting the camera on the computer to eye level. Far too often people put a laptop in front of them, plunk their elbows down on the table and look down into the laptop. This creates what I call the “nostril shot” and it’s never good. Find a box or some books to rest your laptop on to bring your camera to eye level.
Oh, one other thing. As I found out when I spoke at a conference in Niagara Falls a couple of months ago, when you do this, make sure you’re not covering the fan on your laptop, or it will overheat.
Hey I’m not an IT guy. I just know what looks good.