7/30/17 • Master the Media: Five Tips for Acing the Interview

As posted in The Gaston Gazette:

(7/30/17) BELMONT, N.C. – So you’ve managed to catch the eye of a news reporter … now what? From news print to TV or even radio, acing the interview takes more than simply showing up. Poise, preparation and practice are just a few of the vital steps toward ensuring your business dazzles in the momentary spotlight.

But being quotable or camera-worthy takes more than business knowledge and a leadership title; it requires a little Media Training 101 to turn your company or product wisdom into confident, credible spokesperson authority. If you are not equipped with a public relations team – or the budget – for professional training prior to your interview, a little helpful advice can still set you up for success. Let’s review five of the most fundamental tips and tricks:

  • Prepare and practice. Yes, that sounds redundant, but beyond knowing your business like the back of your hand, preparation for the interview is key – and it is essential regardless of the medium (TV, radio or print). Ask the reporter about the article or segment topic; request details about the potential angle so you can best prepare. Do not memorize responses verbatim, but envision how you might respond to questions on the topic. To aid in this endeavor, craft mock questions (if you did not receive any) and practice in a mirror or with a co-worker. Are you talking too fast or too slow? Are you mumbling? Did you incorporate key messages you want to convey about business? Did you share two or three main points on your topic, product, etc. – whatever you are trying to promote? A little practice puts you in tune ahead of time with what you plan to share in the specific interview.
  • Dress to impress. Marilyn Monroe once said, “I don’t mind making jokes, but I don’t want to look like one.” Your appearance plays a significant role in your credibility during any professional interview – from applying to a job to discussing your business with media. When making a good impression in an interview, visual ranks highest for making the most impact at 55% compared to how you sound (35%) and what you say (10%). Although you may go unseen during a news interview, such as a newspaper or magazine, you still build a rapport with the journalist, and it starts immediately with that first visual impression of you. In interviews where you are filmed or photographed for publication, additional consideration of your façade ensures a professional representation of yourself and your business. Television and radio interviews require utmost regard – dangling jewelry can make noise, which causes a distraction to the ear as well as the eye; patterns on a tie or shirt will vibrate on camera and should be avoided; white is also an unfriendly camera color, so choose creams instead or solid blues and complimentary tones to your skin color; don’t experiment on interview day with tight clothing, hats or miscellaneous attire. Keep it comfortable, smart and professional in order to project confidence and sincerity.
  • Paint a picture. Don’t simply answer a journalist’s questions as straightforward as possible. Rather, draw a listener or reader in through your quotable words. Literally, paint a picture with language. By creating imagery in your responses, you engage the audience through robust details that they cannot experience in that moment. What sounds better? “We’re proud to win this award.” Or – “We’re grateful for an award that recognizes our innovation, our technology and our strides in this industry toward creating a progressive, safer product for consumers and for families everywhere.” Although both quotes aptly provide a response, one contains passion and imagery that highlights the brand, its purpose and its commitment to the end user. This extra descriptive step can be the difference between a short or long article or segment as well as maintaining journalist and audience attention.
  • “No comment.” Yes, it’s tempting to go “off the record” with a reporter or use the phrase “no comment” when asked a particularly challenging or risqué question. However, these popular expressions are not recommended. Rather than “no comment,” succinctly answer the inquiry and divert to a topic you feel more comfortable discussing. If you genuinely cannot answer – perhaps you don’t have the information or it falls into another company department – politely respond that you will get back to the reporter with the details. When it comes to “off the record” conversations, always remain mindful during an interview that this is a professional, topical dialogue and not friendly chit chat – no matter how pleasant the interaction feels. Whether the reporter asks you for private company information – and “promises” not to share it – or your banter moves toward more personal subjects, “off the record” should remain off the subject list during this professional interview.
  • Be yourself. Don’t turn off your personality and become a robot simply because the cameras are on or the microphone is in your face. Speak confidently, professionally and enthusiastically about your organization. Incorporate your key messages, but don’t hold so closely to them that you cannot provide genuine responses to the questions. Do you normally talk with your hands? Absolutely do so – within reason, of course – because that’s the natural way of speaking. Remember that you know your business better than anyone and project that confidence in each remark as if you’re sharing the details with a new customer or your best friend.

Media opportunities do not arise every day. As you take advantage of those that shine upon your business, ensure you shine just as brightly with proper preparation. These tactical tips are just a few steps toward maximizing the media moment’s potential and aligning your business for future opportunities as well.

Lyerly Agency’s President and CEO Elaine Lyerly and Executive Vice President and COO Melia Lyerly share their 35+ years of marketing, advertising, public relations and brand strategy experience with readers each month in a column published by The Gaston Gazette. See this month’s edition at http://bit.ly/2tRf1bi.