If, like the majority of people, you fail to keep your New Year’s resolution beyond a few weeks, maybe having a new one for every month of the year might help you boost our skills – in this case your ability to perform well in media interviews.
So we’ve put together 12 media training resolutions inspired by the months ahead…
J is for January and Jotting down three key points you should try to make in a media interview. Never go into one thinking, “I know everything about this subject, they can just ask me what they want”. That’s because you probably know too much and, like a post-Christmas waistline, should slim down all that information. Just note a few essential messages.
F is for February and Flying Start -in any interview you need to begin with impact, not build up to a crescendo, like the chorus of a rousing carol. After all, in a broadcast interview the presenter might interrupt you after 30 seconds to cut to a dramatic breaking story.
M is for March and Making the most of the media opportunity, because, as an interviewee you should never think you’re there to do the presenter or journalist a favour. You, or your organisation, should get something out of it too – perhaps a bigger profile, or, for example, in a crisis, the chance to convey a dedicated helpline number to take the pressure of your general switchboard.
A is for April and Acknowledging the question. Even if you don’t like the question because maybe it’s hostile or not wanted, resolve to answer it with a simple acknowledgement, such as, “We saw that development reported in the media too and will be watching it closely, but our focus today is…”. That sounds so much better than, “I’ve not come here to talk about that,” or worse still, “No comment”.
M is for May and Mixing your tone of voice, because it’s very easy to sound monotonous on radio or TV. Both are well known for “flattening” any variation in the way you speak, so exaggerate the different tones and pace of your voice to help maintain interest from the audience.
J is for June and Jesting at your peril. Humour can be risky, not least because no-one can hear your voice in a press interview and even in a broadcast interview a joke can land badly, for example, it might seem in particularly poor taste given the subject covered before and after your interview and you might be unaware of both.
J is for July and Joining messages to examples to give them greater impact, so, for example(!), don’t just say, “Our Business Class service is the best in the airline industry,” – add, “for example, we’re the only airline that offers…”
A is for August and Arriving in plenty of time. Even the calmest interviewee will feel adrenaline coursing through their body and sense a bead of sweat on their brow when they know millions of people are about to see them answer some tricky questions. You wouldn’t turn up to sit your driving test or to run the 100 metres with a few seconds to spare; consider a media interview the verbal equivalent of those.
S is for September and Signposting your answers. This is especially important when you do a radio interview, because the listener is probably doing something else at the same time – perhaps driving, cooking, or brushing their teeth, so you won’t have their full attention. By saying, “The most important factor to consider here is…” or “What matters above all else is…” or “The most astonishing revelation to come out of this survey is…” you’re metaphorically pulling their ear towards the radio.
O is for October and Omiting obfuscation. Good journalists can spot when an interviewee is trying to hide behind a fog of irrelevance. Sometimes it’s very obvious, such as when an interviewee declares “Well, I think the question you should be asking me is…”, but often it’s less so. However, there’s nothing like a journalist telling you again and again, “But to come back to my question, which you’ve not answered…” to make you look weak and possibly untrustworthy the eyes and ears of the audience.
N is for November and Never asking the journalist’s view. When you’ve perhaps been asked a personal question, it can be very tempting to reply, “…and I’m sure you’d do the same in my position, wouldn’t you?” But resolve never to do this because first of all, it’s not about the journalist – the public wants to hear from you as the expert or industry insider, and secondly, you know nothing about the journalist and any answer they might give could be wholly counter to your position.
D is for December and Dampening down any drama. Broadcast journalists in particular like to inject drama into an interview through their choice of language or tone: “Surely this is a disaster of epic proportions, your company can’t survive a crisis like this…heads will roll…the public will demand an investigation into what’s gone wrong, won’t they?!” Every phrase is like turning up the notch on a gas hob and you’re getting hotter and hotter, so cool things down with a calm phrase such as, “Let’s take a step back and look at what’s really happened here…”, or “This is a time for calm heads and swift, appropriate action”.
And with that we wrap up your month-by-month raft of resolutions for 2020. Each one will stand you in better stead to handle media interviews, as the weeks go by.
So what are you waiting for – it’s time to crack on…after all, there isn’t a month that begins with P, so there’s no excuse for Procrastination…