3 Reasons Why You Need to Prep for a Positive Press Interview
People love talking about good news, right? What bad could come from sharing how great we’re doing in the community? You might be right about that, but if you aren’t spending as much time and energy preparing for positive interviews as you do for contentious conversations you’re putting yourself at risk.
An effective prep session will help you polish up on the topics that you want to shine, and ensure that you don’t get tarnished by any last minute surprises.
You Perform What You Practice
Here’s NBA superstar Steph Curry hitting shots from the tunnel leading onto the court during warm-ups.
Why is he shooting from a position that’s clearly out of bounds? It’s unlikely the NBA will add extra points for trick shots to their off-season rule changes. However, Curry knows that these baskets are harder to sink than almost any field goal he will need to execute during the game.
The same is true of interviews. Talking on the record is radically different than having a conversation with someone, even when you know the reporter quite well. It’s a mental exercise, and you need to stretch first.
In order to make yourself feel more relaxed it helps to have a standard routine before every interview. When you have a system you are less prone to having memory lapses and give yourself a better opportunity to present yourself and your key messages in the best possible light.
A sample interview prep session would include the following components.
Review the journalist’s recent articles or reports to determine both the scope of their beat as well as the tone and tenor that they take in their published pieces. Based on this step, you will better understand your interviewer’s level of expertise in the subject matter, which will help you determine the level of detail and technical information you can discuss. It also helps you evaluate whether the reporter will be friendly, neutral or antagonistic towards your industry or organization.
Review the program you wish to highlight, which should include both what you want to talk about and how it may be falling short of expectations. If you go into an interview wearing rose-colored glasses you might not see the laser beams headed your way. Think about the ways in which you can pivot back to key messages if you get into a discussion about what isn’t going right on the subject.
Once you’ve thought about the reporter and the subject, take a look at the other things your company is doing. Check in with your communications team to see if there are any emerging issues within your organization’s key competencies before going on the record in case the interview expands beyond its original scope. More on that later.
There’s Always a New Angle
After doing the background research and warming up a bit, use your interview prep time to think about the ways to improve. Do you want to become more concise? Take a few minutes to practice speaking without any “uh,” “ah,” and “like” filler words.
Use your phone to record yourself going through your key talking points. Do you sound natural delivering them? Do you need to recast them for this particular audience?
Think about the interview itself. Is there a better way to deliver this message? Do you need to create or update customer or employee testimonials for this project? Use this time to think of a multimedia product or additional voices that could bring your initiative to life.
A good interview should be reflective of what has been done to date and cast a vision of the future for your organization. Giving the reporter an event or initiative to follow will make it easier to generate continued interest in your story.
Refresh Yourself for Off-Topic Eventualities
Good journalists are rarely working on one story at a time. It’s likely that they’ll have several subjects that they’re exploring at any given moment and are constantly gathering new information on these topics.
If they get a good tip about your organization or industry on their way to an interview, there’s a very good chance they’re going to ask you about it. That’s their job. So you need to be prepared to do yours, even if you both agreed to talk about a different issue.
Additionally, a positive interview may be a pretext to get an answer from you on an off-topic question. Have reporters done this in the past? Yes of course. As a former reporter, I can recall going to press conferences trying to look engaged during the prepared remarks so that I would have an opportunity to ask an off-topic question as soon as the Q & A session started. The same thing happens in one-on-one television or phone interviews.
Therefore, in addition to thinking about the topic that you want to talk about you also need to be familiar with the issues that your firm doesn’t want to talk about. From there, you can start figuring out ways to pivot back to key messages or formulate some sort of holding statement if necessary.
The last thing you want to have happen at an interview is to deliver a “no comment” on a story that you know is going to get written. The reporter wouldn’t have asked you about it otherwise.
Ultimately, the final product will be a reflection of the work that you put into it. If you have a preparation routine that helps you feel relaxed, but has you prepared for the worst, you’ll be in a better position to achieve your interview objectives.