5 Tips to Help You Nail Your Interview
So you’ve landed the big interview. Your team has secured one-on-one time with a journalist, and you have the chance to get your company’s message out to the masses. This is a big opportunity with plenty at stake. A great interview can build authenticity and help to develop strong media relationships. But an interview flop can tarnish your reputation and cause unwanted negative attention. No one wants to go viral for the wrong reasons.
Lucky for you, our agency’s media training experts have been on the other side of the interview. As former broadcast, print and radio journalists, they have a behind-the-scenes view of what it really takes to nail an interview. Here’s a hint: It all hinges on preparation. Here are five tips that can make the difference between a stellar interview and one that leaves you scrambling to do damage control.
Imagine Your Headline…then Say It
When preparing for an interview, start by asking yourself what ideal headlines you’d like to see come out of the interview. They should say something exciting about your company while also answering questions like “why now?” and “who cares?” Then, during the interview, begin your answers with that headline messaging. From there, support your headlines with facts, evidence and anecdotes. This will help you build out a solid foundation of key messaging for the interview.
Know Thy Interviewer
Not all journalists work the same way. It’s important to analyze the interview style of whomever you’re working with. Some journalists take a “good cop” approach. They establish a rapport with their subject by starting out with open-ended questions or asking tough questions in a friendly way to create an atmosphere of closeness. Other “bad cop” reporters take a hard-hitting approach. They skip the small talk and go straight for the tough questions, often in rapid fire. Do your research to figure out where a journalists falls on the good cop/bad cop spectrum so you know what to expect.
Anticipate the Tough Questions
Always expect the questions that you’d rather not be asked, even if you think you’re dealing with a “good cop” interviewer. Hash out what the controversial topics and hot-button issues are ahead of time. Mock interviews can be helpful here in order to prepare for the worst. If you are asked a tough question during an interview, there are a few strategies you can use to handle it. Answer the question if you can, but avoid repeating a negative statement. If the question itself isn’t negative, you can rephrase it as part of your answer and then answer the question with that angle. When in doubt, create a bridge to a key message with a phrase like “That’s a good point, but what we think is important here is…”
Avoid Trash Talk
One hard and fast rule of a good interview is that no one comes out on top by trash-talking their competitors. When it comes to rival companies, it’s best to stay mute. While it’s important to be aware of your competitors, avoid mentioning their names at all during an interview. All you’re doing is giving them free air time. Instead, name your company, your products and your customers as much as possible.
Never Go Off the Record
At some point during an interview, a journalist may turn to you and say, “Can I ask you a question off the record?” Don’t do it! Regardless of the great relationship you have with them or how much you trust them, the answer should always be no. At the end of the day, if a journalist gets a juicy soundbite or a hot tip from something you said off the record, they have quite a big incentive to go ahead and publish it. Play it safe and never say anything to a journalist that you wouldn’t want published.