Media Training in 5 Easy Steps

You’ve just been asked to sit down for an on-camera interview. Whether your immediate reaction is joy, fear or panic there are several factors that you’ll want to take into account to make the experience a success. It’s obviously a little bit more complicated than the five considerations I outline below, but these are enough to get you started.

1) Assess The Opportunity: The first and most important question you’ll want to ask yourself is whether the interview is a good idea. What’s in it for you and your company, and, more importantly, are there risks? It’s critical to know what the interview will cover and whether there are any sensitive issues that might come up. If your intention is just to defend yourself you might want to reconsider. Remember you’re not asking the questions and you don’t edit the resulting interview. If you do decide to go ahead….

2) Preparation is Essential: Prepare for an interview like you would for a final exam. Find out what will be covered in the interview and have answers for any questions that might come up. Remember you were called because you’re the expert, and you don’t want to be caught by surprise. The interviewer probably will not provide the exact questions in advance, but he or she should be able to tell you what subjects they would like to cover. If the reporter won’t provide the general areas he or she would like to cover, that’s a red flag.

3) Practice, Practice and More Practice: It’s not enough just to have the answers in your head. You have to say them out loud, ideally in response to real questions. Sit down with a colleague and practice questions and answers. Ideally, you’d like to do as little thinking as possible during the actual interview. That means developing possible answers, to the extent possible, in advance and practicing your delivery. Remember, an interview is not a casual conversation with a friend, so try to speak in complete and succinct sentences.

4) Go With The Flow: There’s really no substitute for the real thing. When the lights are on and the camera is rolling, it’s going to feel different despite how much practice you put into it. You’re going to be anxious. Take a deep breath and slow down. It’s difficult, but try to think of the interview as a conversation. I know. It’s not really a conversation, but thinking of it this way will help you to relax just a little bit and to appear more natural. Speak to the reporter and try to forget about the camera. That’s a tough one, but try at least to focus on the person asking the questions.

5) Control The Agenda: You aren’t the one asking the questions, but you’re not powerless in an interview situation. If there is a message you want to convey or points you want to make, work them into your answers. You don’t have to respond to questions that you don’t want to answer. If you don’t have an answer, don’t make something up on the spot or guess. Say simply that you’ll have to get back to them on that one. If a question comes up that is outside of the parameters of what you had agreed to speak about, politely say that this is an area that you had not agreed to speak about or that you’ll need to respond later. Whatever you do, don’t lose your cool and/or walk out of the interview while the camera is rolling. If that happens, you know for sure what you’re going to see later on.

6) Have Fun: This is a bonus step, and an important one. We’ve discussed some of the things that can go wrong, but most of the time they won’t. Try to stay loose, live in the moment and enjoy the experience. It might be difficult actually to have fun in a stressful moment, but even if you can convince yourself that it is, you will look better, feel better and the resulting interview will show it.