Don’t Spin That Tale (avoiding that interview disaster)!

Some interviews are just disasters waiting to happen.  There were times when I channel-surfed to a news program only to catch a CEO interview and cringe.  Really I have to wonder, “what was he thinking?’ or should I say out loud, “what was he thinking!!!!!”  Pardon the punctuation, but you get my point…

Brand specialists and public relations experts are always creating list after list of things that could go wrong.  And this is all well and good except for the fact that the focus is usually on the mistakes their clients make. Bad cover-ups, poorly handled crises and failed publicity stunts all have their place on the lists.

There’s no worse feeling than watching your client freeze in response to a question on live TV or say something he really shouldn’t. Some mistakes your clients make in media interviews have the potential to damage, rather than enhance, their profile in the media. It’s the role of PR professionals to fully train their clients to reduce the chance of insulting journalists or getting negative coverage in the media.

When you really think about it, the person in most control in an interview setting is the interviewee and not the interviewer. That’s because the person being interviewed holds the information that the interviewer needs. Many organizations find that media interview skills training can ensure their spokespersons can fully capitalize on interview opportunities and avoid missteps.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when preparing your clients for interviews:

Do your research

Make sure the media outlet is one that is in line with your client’s goals – one that will offer the best possible coverage. Provide the interviewer with relevant background material – information about the company, biographies, facts and figures, success stories, etc. In some instances, you can also suggest questions to ask your client, if appropriate, or if it comes up during your discussion with the journalist.

 Aim to fit (the angle)

Nothing good will come, if you’ve prepped your client on a specific set of questions, and all the interviewer wants to cover is another angle. It’s always best to get a list of interview questions ahead of time so that you can determine where the story is heading and prepare accordingly.

Rehearse the talk

 Preparing talking points for your client is the best course of action.   This is critical, especially if there is something your client needs to answer in a specific way and avoid leaving out any details.  Rehearsing these talking points with your client will help you and the client to anticipate questions and respond with confidence.

Keep it short

There is always a tendency for the client to go on and on and most times, this is not a good thing.  For one, it may come across as rambling or even worse you risk taking the interviewer to places you don’t want him to go!  This is an important thing to remember especially when dealing with a crisis.  Best for your client to stick to the talking points agenda.

Visual impact matters

For on-air interviews, visual impact matters!   Do make sure your client is dressed in his “interview best.”   Avoid clothing that is white, black or any extremely busy patterns that tend to distort and create fuzzy patterns on the camera. For women, keep your accessories simple and men should wear solid plain ties as these capture better on film and in photos.

Media follow-up

A little courtesy goes a long way.  Always be polite and thank the interviewer/media for the opportunity and get a clip for your client.

Review and learn

Whether it’s a TV or print interview, do make it a point review the feature.  If it turns out well, strive to do better, if it doesn’t, then there is always time to learn and re-adjust for the next one.

Do you have any tips for media interviews, or any success or disaster stories to share? We would love to hear from you!

Irene Gomez….


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