How to perform in front of the media
How do you perform when you’re in the spotlight so you come out unscathed at worst and – at best – a media star?
The problem is it’s the wrong question. Media interviews aren’t just about performance. There are two Ps that come before it. The second is practice. And the first, and most important, is preparation.
An interview is a conversation with a purpose, and for both parties that purpose is the exchange of information. You’ll have points you want to get across; the journalist will have questions that need answering.
In preparing for the interview, you’ll need to make sure you’re familiar with the publication, so you know what it generally covers, and how. That way, you can pitch yourself properly – you don’t want to be irrelevant. You also need to find out about the journalist if you can. What’s he/she written about before – especially recently? If you have something to say on a topic you know they’ve just covered, you’ll be on a winner.
This kind of research helps in other ways. It not only helps you decide what you’re going to say – it also helps you prepare for possible questions. If you’re announcing Product X, and the publication’s just covered Rival Product Y, you can expect questions about it, and you’ll need to decide in advance how you’re going to deal with them.
And now for the second P – practice. When you have a good idea of the main points you want to cover, ask a colleague to run through it all with you. Listen to yourself. Could you have made that point better? Would an example or an analogy help? Don’t try to achieve too much: if you go in to the interview with just two or three main things you want to get across, and you achieve them, you’ll have done a good job.
And now, at last, performance. If you’ve prepared and practised, you’ll be better equipped to perform. Answer questions whenever you can – but if you can’t, say so. Don’t guess, or give out unchecked information.
Remember it’s a two-way street, so give the journalist as much as you can, while ensuring you get your own main points across too.
A good interview pays dividends – and not just in the immediate future, either. Short-term, it should get you media coverage; but long-term, it should get you even more. Why? Because you gave a good interview. You made the journalist’s life easy. Journalists remember these things, and it makes it likely they’ll come back again.
– Robert Fenner, writer, Forsyth Websper