Done well, press interviews can improve your company's visibility and strengthen your brand. Its something that PR firms like ours coach our clients on and hone a perfectly pitched message for. Done poorly, they can have the exact opposite effect. They can damage a brand, ensure that sales drop, and really tank communications initiatives. If your boss isn't letting you handle press interviews, these may be some of the reasons why.
1. You Keep Speaking to Reporters 'Off the Record'
Disregard what you see on TV. In the real world, nothing is ever off the record. It is something that as a best pr firm we consistently teach our clients. Situations can change quickly and it may become impossible for a reporter to ignore bosses, producers or editors breathing down his or her neck for the nitty gritty behind a story, or for a juicy negative spin. Here's the rule: Never tell a reporter anything you don't want to see in print or on social media, or hear on television. Interview requests should always be passed to your PR firm so that they can do due diligence and obtain a list of intended questions from the journalist and force them to x out questions that could possibly present a problem. This also allows your PR firm the opportunity to present you with the questions and coach you on well crafted responses. Including conversations that take place before you think the interview has begun or after the interview is considered over. Anything said prior to camera rolling may suddenly be inserted in to their question and answer session, and anything after can be inserted in to a follow up story if they choose. Be aware that the moment the media is in your presence it is 100% showtime.
2. You Sound Like a Broken Record
You may want to ensure that your message is presented and reinforced, but there are better ways of doing this than with repetition. We have all seen it, the interviewee that sounds like a broken record. Even the best PR firm can not save an interviewee that is not willing to put in the work before hand. Savvy interviewees do their homework before an interview to develop a variety of ways to put their message across without repeating themselves.
3. You're Distracting People from Your Message
You're excited to have the opportunity to do a live interview -- you've practiced your message and you're ready to go. Unfortunately, the fact that you're wildly tapping your foot causes a sympathetic response from the rest of your body and you look like you're on the deck of the ship in the "Perfect Storm.” You were your brightest blazer or your cutest polka dot dress. These are all tremendous on camera no-no’s. Solid colors work best on camera, stay away from patterns. Practice interviewing in the mirror without fidgeting, yawning, or with too many hand gestures. Get someone to video you doing a mock interview and figure out a way to make yourself sit still.
4. 'No Comment' Is Your Favorite Response
You may think you've outsmarted the interviewer by politely declining to answer a question. In reality, you're opening yourself (and your company) up to a lot of speculation. Replying “ No Comment” is a blatant way of saying, hey, there is something to hide here. Find ways to explain why you can't give a complete answer that will make not answering the question a non-event.
5. You Answer Every Question You're Asked
You want to be helpful. However, answering questions that are above your pay grade or outside your area of expertise leaves you and your boss open to negative repercussions. Be ready with appropriate replies for questions that you are not prepared to answer such as “Unfortunately I can not answer that for you as only our C Level executives are privy to that information, however what i can tell you is……insert positive and relevant topic here”
6. Your Answers Sound Like a Bedtime Story
You've heard that using examples and anecdotes is a good way to make your message clear. That's true, but keep your examples short and on point. They should sound like an anecdote, not a book. You want to ensure that your interviewer has time to get to all of the necessary questions they would like to ask you. Replying with long winded stories, unless the long story has been specifically requested, is a sure fire way to ensure that you will never be invited back for a second or third interview.
7. You're Compelled to Fill Voids
Many people are uncomfortable with silence. If the interviewer pauses for an uncomfortable amount of time, they're probably waiting for you to fill the void with a comment you might not have made otherwise. Learn to sit quietly through the silence.
8. You're Impressed With Your Own Analytical Prowess
You want to display your absolute grasp of the issues. If asked a hypothetical question, you may be able to put yourself in that hypothetical situation and come up with a reasonable analysis of what would happen, but you can't be sure. Just don't do it, stay far away from hypotheticals within the interview process and stick to the facts.
9. You Can't Stick to a Message
You may want to be helpful and give an interview rich with information -- fight that inclination. We ask our clients to prepare for the interview by writing the best way to respond to questions or explain situations, we then provide our feedback and edits and encourage them stick to them. Learn to recognize when the questions are headed off-topic and find ways to get back on track quickly.
10. You Use Too Much Jargon
Make two columns on a piece of paper. Write jargon (words that are specific to your industry that others don't understand) in the first column, and words that describe the same thing but are widely understood in the second column. Eliminate the words in the first column from your interview responses.
Practice the skills required to do an effective press interview, and you'll soon find yourself in demand as a company spokesman.