Five Key Takeaways When Preparing for a Media Interview
Interviews can often be unpredictable, especially when you know that the interviewers may challenge you and your side of the story. Such was the case with FOX News and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who went on ‘America’s Newsroom’ with co-anchors Bill Hemmer and Dana Perino.
Right from the get-go, Psaki showed off that she was well-prepared with her messaging and facts to answer an array of questions during the entirety of the nearly 15-minute interview including, sharp questions on vaccinations and masks regarding COVID-19, Russia and Ukraine, crime in the U.S., border security, the Olympics in China and more.
Embed a video clip of the interview here
Hemmer even threw in a curveball by asking Psaki to respond to a real-time tweet from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky who responded to Biden’s “minor incursion” remark during his press conference.
Without flinching, Psaki started her response with, “Thank you for the opportunity” before she moved forward with a more elaborate answer.
For someone else, this entire interview could have been a heated and contested exchange, but it wasn’t for Psaki. And in it, Psaki highlighted several key takeaways that everyone should follow when conducting an interview – whether in a friendly environment or not:
- Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. It was evident that Psaki was well-rehearsed with her messages and facts, from COVID to border security, to even how many times Biden has answered questions from the White House press corps (250 times in the past year).
- Listen to the full question. When you have the answer, it’s easy to jump the gun and answer the question before the interviewer is finished. But Psaki waited for her questions to be asked before she answered, which also gave her time to think before responding.
- Bridge your message and the answer to the question. Just because a question is asked, it doesn’t mean you can’t state your message first, and then bridge to the answer. On several occasions, Psaki first took the opportunity to say a key message before answering the interviewer’s questions, such as when she was asked about an “off-ramp” from COVID. Her response started with, “First, let me say that 75% of the country is fully vaccinated” – a big message she wanted to get out there when she wasn’t asked how many people are vaccinated.
- Remain calm and friendly. During a long interview with complicated and nuanced questions on critical topics your body language could change – you may want to rip out your hair, unknowingly start showing hints of frustration in your voice, or begin to scowl. This wasn’t the case with Psaki who made the effort to stay unruffled and keep a smile on her face.
- Do your homework on the interviewer. It’s just as important to know who you are speaking with as it is to know your key messages as it can help you set a tone for the interview. Psaki, whose husband is from Ohio, and Hemmer bantered about being Cincinnati Bengals fans, while Psaki and Perino related on Perino being a former press secretary under George W. Bush (and if they can find something in common, you can too with your interviewer).
During it all, Psaki put on a clinic with FOX News by being friendly and affable, but also confident and assertive in her responses.
Psaki also did the same with CNN’s Jake Tapper, who pressed her much more than FOX News did when repeatedly asked about Biden’s “legitimacy” response to a question about the 2022 mid-term elections during his White House press conference. Although there was less friendly banter between the two as compared to FOX News, Tapper did note that Psaki was “earning her paycheck” for her media interviews.
To learn how Xenophon Strategies helps clients prepare for their media interviews, please visit us at: xenophonstrategies.com/services/media-training.