Whether you’re experienced in giving media interviews or have no idea where to begin, taking part in media training is critical to supporting the goal at hand – making sure you’re prepared for a successful interview.
Practice makes perfect, as they say, and when an organization’s spokesperson is unprepared for an interview, anything could happen.
Take for example this CNBC Squawk Box interview from 2008 with Cadbury’s North American President, Brad Irwin.
The interview should have been straight forward – talk about commodities and prices of items like cocoa and sugar (topics of importance to the C-suites at one of the world’s largest candy manufacturers).
However, it’s quickly apparent that Irwin is not prepared for the interview, and rather than having messages for the questions at hand, he has only a small set of talking points that focus on innovation. This made it quite challenging for the hosts to conduct a productive interview.
Although it was reported Irwin was invited as a guest on the show at the last minute, he still came across as unprepared and uninformed on his own industry
We don’t want that for our clients.
Whether it’s a last second interview request, an interview during a crisis, or a light-hearted interview promoting a special event, we want to ensure our clients are informed of the interview parameters and equipped with the messages and tools they need to answer any question from the fluff to the tough – but especially the tough ones.
To help prepare spokespersons, executives, or anyone within an organization who may end up speaking with a reporter, we work with them to make sure they are prepared with these 5 steps:
- Ask the 5 W’s: When a media request comes in, it’s essential to know the five 5 W’s. This means, yes, asking the reporter these questions:
- Who the interview is with;
- What the topic is and what questions they will ask;
- Why the reporter is interested;
- When the deadline is; and
- Where the interview will be (in person, over the phone, on web video).
- Develop Talking Points: Not all reporters will give questions ahead of time, but some will. Plus, it’s important to know that reporters want answers to their questions, so they’ll at least give you the topic of the interview. Based on the questions or topic, it’s essential to prepare messages and talking points that provide answers. No one wants to be caught off guard and unable to provide answers on topics they should be able to discuss.
- Follow the 3 C’s: When conducting an interview, reporters are always looking for a good quote or soundbite, whether it’s for print or broadcast. This means interviewees should follow the 3 C’s when conducting interviews:
- Calm: Interviews can be stressful, especially in front of a camera or during a time of crisis. Remaining cool and calm is important to avoid becoming flustered.
- Concise: It’s easy to respond to questions with run on answers that provide more information than is necessary or fill any silence there might be between the interviewer and the interviewee. However, long drawn-out answers can be the enemy of the good, so it is important to stay short, direct and concise. If a reporter wants more info, they’ll ask a follow-up question.
- Credible: Reporters and their audiences want real answers to their questions. Offering puffed up answers or answers that run around the question just won’t do. Answers need to provide truth and facts to ensure you’re seen as a credible source of information.
- Media Train: Of course, this is one of the five steps. Xenophon runs half and full-day sessions in which we discuss the issues your organization may face, work together to review and/or create key messages on how to respond to those issues, and then practice in front of the camera and lights as if it were a real broadcast interview.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: A media training is a great way to develop and hone your skills for working with the media. However, you’re not going to do media training every time a reporter calls, so it will be important to write down and rehearse your talking points ahead of the interview. This can be done with a colleague or even Xenophon Strategies.
For more information on media training with Xenophon Strategies, please visit https://xenophonstrategies.com/services/media-training.