Picture this. Your public relations team pitched your company’s latest news to a reporter and secured an in-person interview. Colleagues, management, investors, clients, and potential partners are all tuning in. This is your big chance to convey your announcement and your mind suddenly goes blank. The reporter asks you something out of left field and you’re thinking, “What do I say? I didn’t expect this question!” You panic, start to sweat, and say the first thing that comes to mind, which happens to be the complete opposite of what you rehearsed on the car ride over to the interview. Now you have to recover to get back on track, in hopes you didn’t lose the interest of the viewers or enrage your boss.
This unfortunate situation happens more often than you think and is easily avoidable. Steer clear of this nightmare and use the following important tactics to rock your next interview.
Do your research
To alleviate any interview jitters, spend time familiarizing yourself with the reporter’s background before your scheduled interview. The easiest way to prepare is to create a briefing sheet, which is a document that provides helpful information about the reporter in preparation for the interview. A briefing sheet should include the following information:
- The reporter’s name and outlet
- The purpose of the interview (for example, to talk about company XYZ’s recent acquisition, an innovative product, or new CEO)
- Information about the reporter’s beat (the topics he/she typically covers)
- Recent coverage or mentions of the company by the reporter or the outlet
- Indicate whether the coverage was positive, negative, or neutral
- Interview questions the reporter will likely ask based on past interviews
- A list of the reporter’s recent social media posts, to familiarize yourself with his or her audience and opinions
Body language is important
The way you present yourself is extremely important. Keep your hands by your side and refrain from crossing your arms or slouching. You want to come across as confident. Be warm and inviting by smiling and don’t forget to make eye contact with the reporter.
It takes a special person to be in front of a camera or a microphone and act calm, cool, and collected.If you feel that interviewing is your weakness, don’t fret! You just need some additional practice. Rehearse in front of the mirror, record yourself, and learn from your observations. During your interview, let your personality shine through.
Be poised and most importantly, be yourself.
Stay on message
It is crucial that you prepare key talking points in advance and stick to those statements throughout the interview. The reporter may ask something that is not aligned with your message, so be prepared to bring the conversation back to your talking points and don’t stray, even if prompted to. This is your interview—you’re in the driver’s seat.
When preparing your messaging, create a list of anticipated questions and practice, practice, practice! It is important that you prepare for all potential interview questions, even ones that could be negative. If you answer a question incorrectly, it could impact the direction of the interview. Practice bridging the reporter’s question with your talking points to bring the conversation back to your statement.
Take a moment to reflect before responding
If you need a moment or you are unclear of the question, request clarification instead of answering without fully understanding what is being asked. It is okay to repeat an answer. Oftentimes, a reporter will ask the same question a few different ways or may ask something out of scope to catch you off guard. Stand your ground! It is important to note, however, that responding with “no comment” is NOT recommended. The phrase is associated with guilt, even if that is not your intention.
Do not talk “off” the record
Refrain from saying anything to the reporter that you wouldn’t want in the article. Nothing is off the record and the microphone is always on. By sticking to this principle, you are avoiding what could be a catastrophic communications problem.
If your interview is well received by the audience and the reporter, you may be asked for a follow-up or for more interviews in the future. It is important that you build relationships with key industry media leaders who have a voice in your space and establish yourself as a thought leader. Implement these tips, and I’m confident that you will leave a lasting impression!