Media Training 101: The 3 Biggest Media Interview Mistakes

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Doing a media interview, whether it be in front of a television camera, in a radio studio or sitting down with a reporter or blogger, in-person or over the phone, has the tendency to make otherwise confident, eloquent people say really dumb stuff. You need look no further than the evening news – to those political hopefuls during election season – to see the proof.

And it’s not just the big shots in the spotlight either. Often times, without any provocation, the little guy, too, can find himself suddenly answering to the media about a scandal in his industry, whether or not he or his company is personally involved.

But there are a few simple strategies you can arm yourself with that will not only boost your confidence, but will also help you to speak with purpose, boosting your credibility with your customers and stakeholders.

Of course, there’s nothing quite like stepping in front of a real TV camera to completely understand the media interview experience, but grasping the following concepts will get you well on your way. Show me somebody who says they were “misquoted” in the press and I bet I can show you where they committed at least one of the…

3 Biggest Media Interview Mistakes

1. Failing to Prepare Whether you’re going to the press or the press is coming to you, a media interview should rarely come as a surprise. Get your head out of the hole and do your homework. Thinking you can just “wing it” is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

Know what the issues are surrounding your organization and/or your industry. Don’t discount an issue just because you’re not comfortable with it – that’s surely what they’ll ask you about, whether you want them to or not. Expect it!

2. Not Knowing Your Key Messages – Whether your media interview is proactive or reactive, knowing your key messages is crucial to making the interview work for you. Without your key messages, you’re merely coming off as reactionary, uninformed, or worse yet, defensive.

No matter what a reporter asks you, you can ALWAYS tie-in one of your key messages. Pay close attention to someone who does a lot of media interviews and you’ll soon pick up on this technique. It takes practice, but great communicators know how to do this seamlessly.

3. “No Comment” – Oh really?! Then you must be hiding something! That’s the message you’re sending when you answer with “No comment.” Even if you’re not hiding something, but you still feel like the only possible response is “no comment”, then you have committed egregious and unforgivable acts of #1 & #2 above!

If you can’t speak on a particular subject, tell the reporter so and try to give a reason why. Then, hit ’em with a key message.

Let’s be clear here… this is by no means an end-all list. We’ve merely scratched the surface of the many ways you can avoid a media interview meltdown. There are many other mistakes we see people make time and again when facing the media… mistakes that tarnish reputations and damage, or worse yet, destroy client relationships.

And not all strategies are written in stone either. Absolutes are very tricky things. But by adopting these and other media interview strategies, you’ll be much less likely to ever have to utter, “I was misquoted!”

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