Over a year into our ‘new normal’, we are still surprised to see spokespeople, heads of organisations and CEOs struggle to give ‘good’ virtual media interviews. It seems a struggle for people to present their best selves remotely, compared to face-to-face interviews. It’s important not to forget how to conduct media interviews, just because they are mostly via video these days. In fact, it’s the opposite, as we cannot see this relatively new medium going away any time soon. Whilst it’s logistically easier for the media to ‘Zoom’ for their content, it doesn’t mean that the tried and tested ‘professionalism’ of interviews conducted in person should fall by the wayside, even when it feels more casual to participate in. That said, after media training professionals for over two decades, we wanted to share with you our top tips for getting the best out of your media interview, whether virtual or face-to-face.
A non-negotiable must do! Not only is this the most professional approach, it will also help with nerves or anxiety. You need to understand why you are giving the media interview, and what will happen before or after. This gives you confidence in both yourself and the message that you plan to deliver. Your research will tell you who the interviewer will be and who else will be involved, especially if you are required to give an opposing brief to the other participant! Don’t forget to ask how long you will be on or required for.
Your research will inform your preparation. You’ll know what you are expected to talk about, or have a view on, who else it involves and how long for. This helps you laser focus on your message and also makes it easier to concentrate, especially if you have a million things you’d like to say. This focus stops you ‘over’ preparing, with too much information, and leaves you confident in your clarity.
Keep it simple
You want to come across as being smart and informed; of course you do, but please do not use industry ‘jargon’ in your responses, or overly long words. It’s not about ‘dumbing down’ your message, but all about clarity and conviction. You can alienate the audience easily this way – which will dilute your message by being extra formal or using language nobody but your industry peers understand! Remember, in a media interview you are speaking to fellow humans, whether face-to-face or via video, not giving a presentation or a speech.
Show your personality
It’s not a TV talent contest, but your media interview should still be an opportunity for you to show your best self. This includes your background in a virtual environment, and also how you dress. Your ‘best self’ in this instance should be appropriate to the organisation you represent and be professional. Virtual interviews can feel casual, but your presentation should reflect your personality, whilst showcasing your credibility. Audiences respond to engaging conversation and informative insight. A robotic response from you will achieve the opposite!
Listen in real time
In a media interview, things don’t happen in a straight line. Some questions will be longer than others; some may be more loaded than others. All require different responses, whilst you try to decipher the angle the journalist is taking. You do not have to fill ‘dead air’ for the sake of saying something. You can always ask them to repeat the question or answer in parts.
Keep it positive
Think about politicians – the masters of avoiding difficult questions. We don’t recommend saying everything whilst saying nothing at all, but it’s important to acknowledge difficult questions (with your careful media training you will of course be great at this) and move on. Never reinforce a negative statement by mirroring the language used by the journalist. It is possible to show that you acknowledge the statement they’ve made, without giving a direct answer that apportions blame or responsibility.
Managing interviews in the media successfully is something that the professionals at The Communications Works have been helping top-tier professionals, spokespeople, CEOs and organisations with for over 20 years. Preparation is crucial to a successful outcome for your brand or organisation, and we can help.
The Communications Works (TCW) is a global communications and media training consultancy that helps organisations and individuals with their messaging, to deliver stronger presentations and handle any perceived or real PR crisis with confidence. With offices in Dubai and London, TCW is led by Jen Blandos and Elsbeth Smedley – experts with over twenty years’ experience across multinational brands, government entities and more.
Learn more about how PR has changed in the past year, here.