Communication is the Pulse of Life!

Media Interviews

DON’T MAKE A DRAMA OUT OF A CRISIS

Sooner or later, every company will be faced with a crisis that has the potential to damage its reputation. Sometimes this crisis can be contained in-house; more often than not, and especially in today’s 24/7 media world, news of the problem leaks rapidly to the media, which has the power to destroy the most carefully nurtured company image almost overnight.

For the many businesses that work with hazardous materials or processes that can be dangerous to the environment and people, the risks of an accident that leads to a crisis can be proportionately greater than, for example, service businesses. Yet even here there is potential for risk, as companies may need to deal with redundancies, malicious employees with a grudge to bear or the acquisitive attentions of predatory competitors.

Don’t panic

Despite the plethora of books on the subject, the crisis management process is simple and can be encapsulated by two simple sentences: be prepared and don’t panic.

Although both these pieces of advice sound like basic common sense, it is often the lack of an objective perception of the situation that can turn a manageable crisis into a full-blown drama.

A badly handled communication crisis can have such severe effects that in extreme circumstances corporations have had to re-invent themselves and re-brand to avert a reputation freefall. In an odd way behemoths like car and oil companies (think of the adverse publicity given to BP following the Gulf of Mexico oil spills, for example) are the least adept at dealing with crisis effectively.

Be prepared

Crisis management strategy relies on a two-pronged approach embracing internal as well as external communications. You cannot have a well thought out plan without giving proper attention to both of these aspects.

It is easy to understand why internal communication is as important as external in ensuring that consistent messages are communicated. Most of your workforce will have access to social media channels. Even if your company blocks these channels internally, people have smartphones that are totally independent of your internal filters. Without a proper communication plan, information will be transferred externally before you can reach for the forgotten ‘Crisis Communications Plan’ that you may have produced a few years before and squirreled away in one of your company’s computer drives.

Don’t allow your crisis plan to lay forgotten – review it frequently and be ready to implement it in an instant.

Crisis situations often have the habit of occurring outside normal hours. It is therefore essential that you have a procedure in place for dealing with such situations, either by allocating senior staff to an on-call press rota, or by ensuring that there is someone to take calls and route enquiries to the appropriate spokespersons. Poor access to information outside normal working hours can scupper even the best laid plans.

The cardinal sin of crisis management

Your internal crisis communication plan must rely on well-informed individuals whose duty is to ensure that absolutely everyone in your company is kept up to speed on the crisis and given key facts about the situation. If facts are not provided, it is human nature to speculate and there is nothing more damaging to a crisis situation than having to deal with speculation – the cardinal sin of all mismanaged communication campaigns.

Your ability to prevent speculation is based on the speed with which you can respond to the crisis. If you have rehearsed (be prepared!) and cleared your decks, you can engage with both your internal and external audiences quickly and efficiently, aiming always to be one step ahead.

Train and rehearse

External communications are somewhat easier to handle, particularly if you have a plan or rely on a specialist service. Despite this, the world of PR crisis management is littered with examples of bad practice. It is a fact that often fundamental errors in crisis communications can be caused by Senior Managers not having had experience of dealing with the media. It is therefore vital that you either train your Senior Executive in this area of communications, or (particularly if don’t have resources) rely on appointed experts and spokespeople.

Whether you have an internal or external spokesperson it is absolutely vital to be totally honest and transparent with them, providing as much accurate data as possible. Never forget that speculation can often destroy a well thought out plan.

Be in control

Dealing with the press can be a daunting experience even for the most street-wise operators. During a crisis you will not have the luxury to rely on the well thought out press release. When the media knocks at your doors they expect answers. Anodyne statements like ‘no comment’ are of no use. Indeed, by using such tactics you are implicitly telling the press to go elsewhere to find information about you.

So, the key point is to be in control. There may be stages during a crisis when the press becomes hostile, particularly when conducting interviews. Your spokesperson’s aim should be to think about the audience at all times. After all, a journalist is only there to convey a message to an audience. You need to consider each audience and tailor your message accordingly. Never forget that behind the term ‘audience’ there are individuals like you, so your message needs to be humane and approachable, not distant and mechanical.

Journalists have an array of subtle tricks to encourage a naive spokesperson to speculate. Use of the conditional (“Would you say…”) is a favourite tactic, followed by silence. Yes, silence. In such a situation it would be easy to try and elaborate on the message, to fill the gap; almost certainly this will lead to the unplanned release of information that is counter-productive.

When faced by silence, focus on reinstating the points you have just made.

Some journalists are adept at making a spokesperson feel comfortable and relaxed. The inexperienced speaker may be lulled into a highly dangerous trap from where there is no return. In extreme cases you will be faced by other tactics such as the ‘Yes and No’ game (that is, you are asked to reply with either an affirmative or a negative). In these instances your duty is to politely bounce this back. You may have to repeat yourself, but this is fine, provided you do so calmly and engagingly. Interruptions are another favourite. In this instance, just keep calm and in control (but avoid looking smug).

The arsenal of journalistic tactics is almost endless, which is why without preparation or the support of a specialist you will easily fall foul of these basic tenets, creating a worse situation than the one you wanted to avert.

So, don’t underestimate a crisis, don’t be complacent, but be prepared and you will be fine. Omit these basic rules at your peril.

Posted by guest, Maurizio Fantato, member of EVOKE PR Network.

 

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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….


NO to “No Comment”!

You know the immense disappointment and annoyance you are liable to feel after sending your friend a long text message only to receive a one word reply? An amplified version of that is probably what a journalist feels whenever somebody responds with a “no comment” to a question! Of course, in this case, a lot more is at stake not only for the journalist tasked with a story to cover, but also for the person responsible for making the remark!

Perhaps there is information that cannot be disclosed, perhaps the question posed is something beyond the interviewee’s scope of knowledge, or the topic of discussion is irrelevant to the matter at hand.  Or perhaps it’s just a case of clamming up at the last minute under pressure.  There are many reasons that may or may not explain why a person would utter those dreaded words.

The most dangerous thing that could happen when responding with “no comment” is that the situation may be taken out of context. Nobody would want the journalist to think that there is something to hide nor would the air of dishonesty do anyone any favours – make a journalist unhappy and be prepared to face the consequences. So how can we avoid such unnecessary suspicion?

Quite simple – Turn up prepared!

If the interview questions were not already furnished before hand, try to anticipate potential or likely questions, and spend some time thinking about delivering the best answer in the best possible way. By planning ahead, responses can be worked on. Besides preparing content, the interviewee would also be able to gauge the amount of time to spend on each answer and establish an appropriate pace to ensure that they are articulate and audible. Areas with insufficient information or inadequate explanations could be worked upon further.

And when you think that you are prepared, prepare some more.

Have reports, statistics, data or visuals that is worth sharing on hand – It is beneficial to have background information on current events relevant to the topic. Chances are, the journalist will be pressed for time and questions would be fired at the interviewee rapidly to ensure that as much information can be extracted within the stipulated (or less!) time frame. Fumbling around and grasping at things to substantiate the answer would not only make the interviewee look unprepared and flustered but it can also be a trigger to making the dreaded comment.

With all these in place, just remember to ANSWER THE QUESTIONS. Like comprehension exercises everyone had back in school, it only counts if the questions are answered. Otherwise, wouldn’t the whole exercise of having the interview be pointless? If the answers provided are satisfactory, there would probably be less unplanned questions asked. Even when armed with well-oiled weapons, curveballs could still be thrown at the poor, unsuspecting interviewee – but at least what has been prepared for can be executed seamlessly. So it is always good to plan things to say, even if nothing can be said. Here’s how:

Always be honest!

If there is only the truth and no lies, there would be fewer things to keep track of.  Should the interviewee be unable to provide sufficient information or address a question, be forthright about it. Do not try to dodge questions – it is the journalist’s job to press the question and it is the interviewee’s job to provide answers and insights. The very least thing to do when faced with an unanswerable question is to explain why it cannot be answered.

Replace the negative with the positive.

If faced with a less than pleasant situation or question, offer a substitute. If the interviewee is not able to address the question at hand, offer another nugget of information that may be worthy of attention or veer the conversation in a direction that is more comfortable. Use phrases like “I cannot provide you with such information but what I can tell you is …”

Make alternative arrangements.

Perhaps an opportunity for a follow-up could be arranged; this could be via a phone call or an email or perhaps another interview. It is also advisable to provide contacts or sources where further information pertaining to the interview can be obtained.

These may all seem pretty obvious and simple but sometimes under pressure, things just slip our minds and that is completely alright. Like with most things, interviews get better with experience. Here’s to charming your way through an interview. March forward with confidence and may you never have to utter those terrible twos ever again!


Out of the Frying Pan but Not into the Fire – Planning for the Unthinkable!

“When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters – one represents danger, and the other represents opportunity.” – John F Kennedy, 35th U.S. President.

Crisis communication . . . What does it really mean? Many of us, especially in the communications industry, are familiar with this term – or at least we think we are. Simply recognizing a crisis, identifying a crisis management team and drafting a crisis management plan is not enough to ‘fix’ one when it happens. And to add fuel to the fire, having an inexperienced spokesperson who says all the wrong things at the wrong time can exacerbate the situation.

Now, back to the quote from the late John F Kennedy, a crisis can put anyone or any organization in a difficult and uncomfortable place; but it can also open the door for growth and trust, in both personal and professional relationships. Here are some guidelines to remember when dealing with a crisis – so you can make the best of it – if and when it happens.

Acknowledge, Apologize & Remain Calm
The first thing you should do is to contact your CEO and the chief of your public relations department when a crisis arises – enabling them to implement any crisis management plans that have been set in place. In any crisis situation, it is always important to recognize and acknowledge it. Even if the crisis is a minor one and involves an employee who engaged in misconduct – this one small act can trigger into a growing crisis, threatening the integrity and reputation of the organization, as in the recent Papa John’s Debacle. Publicizing an earnest apology to the public via various media platforms and remaining calm during the entire duration of the crisis can help minimize the situation. This lets the public know that you are aware of what happened and are doing everything that you can to contain the situation.

Provide Truthful Information
In a crisis, it is very important to keep this in mind: Tell it ALL, Tell it FAST, and Tell the TRUTH. Often, we conceal some information because we think they aren’t important and we only choose to disclose some on a need-to-know basis. However, in dealing with a crisis, it is imperative to provide full disclosure. Concealing any part of the information that is related to the crisis can trigger doubt, which can cause even the most well structured crisis management plans to backfire. Being the first to provide information also places you in a position of authority – instead of allowing the crisis to simmer and the media to catch on.

Offer Constructive Solutions
Who needs a crisis? Crises are not pleasant and more often than not, can be very disruptive. Unfortunately for us, they happen – especially when we least expect them to. Being able to provide or at least offer constructive solutions post-crisis helps to appease the public. Do not though, equate this to bribery – these solutions don’t always have to have monetary value, such as giving away free products. They can be as simple as making suitable policy or operational changes. In order to effectively move on and learn from any crisis is to offer solutions to the problem, after identifying them of course! What can be done to ensure that this never happens again? How can we improve to better serve our clients?

Give Assurance
Finally, the public wants to be assured and reassured that something like this won’t slip through the cracks and happen again. Let them know that you’ve learnt from the crisis and while mistakes do happen and sometimes accidentally, you will try your best to prevent them from reoccurring regardless by taking the necessary precautionary measures. This is an excellent opportunity for you to strengthen your client relationships by proving that you’re responsible, competent, dependable, adaptable in any situation, and more importantly, capable of growth – even in a crisis.

While riding out the storm during a crisis can be frustrating and sometimes intimidating, don’t let it get to you. Also, remember that not everyone will react the way you want them to, but at least, you’ve done your best and made the most out of it. And on a brighter note, at least now you’re prepared for the next crisis.

By Fiza Johari, PR Associate @ Corporate Media Services.


Social Media or Face-to-Face Communication?

A warm handshake, engaging conversation and getting to know customers and prospects on an individual level can play an important role in forming stronger, more meaningful and profitable business relationships.

We all seem to live and breathe social media.  Take that away for just two days, and we’re likely to suffer some serious withdrawal symptoms – ok, so perhaps that’s an exaggeration.  If you were to meet someone on the street and asked for his contact information, the likely response would probably be:  Are you on Facebook? Are you on LinkedIn?  And don’t be surprised if you get directed to some other social networking site that you’ve never even heard of.  That’s right, technology is evolving by the minute as we speak!

This is all well and good but we have to ask – in today’s tech-savvy world, are we losing our sense of human voice and touch?  Is social media killing the art of personal communication, and how is it affecting our everyday business?

Face-to-face discussions are the foundation of human communication; once established, it allows us to build trust, clearly articulate our ideas and minimize misunderstanding. However, for many of us, face-to-face communication seems to be a dying art – replaced by text messaging, e-mails, and social media. Human communication and interactions are shaped by available technologies.

Is technology helping or hindering our ability to spread messages?  Perhaps, it isn’t doing either. A more plausible answer is that it is essentially transforming traditional methods and revolutionizing the way we communicate with one another.  In the communications arena, specifically public relations, media, advertising and marketing, we have to stay relevant, informed, and up-to-date on the newest communication channels and incorporate them into our range of capability offerings.

To build meaningful connections between people, we need to let technology enhance our communication, rather than dictate it. As new communication technological advancements become available, our temptation is also to spend less time on face-to-face interactions at the risk of losing the critical context of our message. Of course, e-mails and social media can dramatically impact the speed and volume of messages, but therein also lies the danger in allowing the subtle aspects of dialogue and personality to fall by the wayside.

Online interactions allow us to manipulate the way others perceive us.  The words we type tend to characterize or define us, which in reality, can be very different to that of having an actual conversation with a peer.

Face-to-face communication, on the other hand, has several advantages over other forms of communication. For example, we are better able to control the situation we’re in when speaking to the person in front of you.  We’re able to present points one-by-one – and in the process, make sure that each point is clearly communicated and understood before moving on to the next point. This can greatly increase both the speed and accuracy of communication.

Face-to-face communication is also more precise than non-verbal cues. No matter how clear we think we are being, different gestures have different interpretations between different cultures and even between two people of the same culture, which can lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding.  This direct verbal communication is also an effective way to explain intangible concepts, as problem areas can be readily addressed and explained.

More importantly, face-to-face contact helps to build trust. After all, businesses are built on relationships. As the relationship grows and develops, so does the business. Often, written communication cannot fully capture the true tone and meaning intended by the sender. A punctuation mark wrongly placed can easily change the meaning of a sentence.

Social media has many merits and demerits, but it can never replace face-to-face human interaction.

A savvy marketer or entrepreneur knows that he needs to use social marketing tools as part of a balanced portfolio of communication, and use them in different ways, depending on their benefits and the audience. Meeting people though will remain a vital part of doing business as it provides the opportunity to communicate information directly and articulate sentiments that would not be appropriately captured in an email or a tweet.  It is also an effective way to discover common interests and beliefs that will strengthen your working relationship.


So You Think You Can Write . . . A Speech?

One of the toughest skills to master is the art and science of crafting a memorable speech. Penning a persuasive prose takes lots of blood, sweat and tears. For many of us though, the appeal of writing a speech falls somewhere between getting a speeding ticket and filing your tax returns.

Still nervous?  Speech writing can do that to you.  Perhaps you’ve lived with the idea that you were never good with words, and worse, you feared being judged or ridiculed – we’ve all been there at some point in our lives.

Writing a speech is as straightforward as learning to read out loud. The key to writing good speeches lies in using a theme.  It is important to decide who will make up your audience. Your perception of the audience shapes the tone of your speech. Speech writing is very personal, as the writer talks about his views, thoughts and emotions. The writer and/or the presenter should capture an audience’s interest with the first or second sentence of the introduction.

A good speechwriter has to envision a goal that he wants to reach with his speech.  Being clear and being able to communicate in words that transition easily from one thought to the next will go a long way to impress your audience.

Like anyone who has been involved with crafting a speech, I have had moments when I was at a loss when it came to finding that perfect phrase that “made” my speech. Writing a speech is by no means for the faint-hearted, the shy or the meek. Speeches are all about clarity, structure and seizing the moment.

While speech writing may seem daunting, its rewards make up for all the uncertainties of the writing process.

Here are some tips to help you along:

Know your subject matter. – Ask yourself these questions. Have you done your research? Do you know what you are talking about, and does it have a purpose to the end matter?

Who’s listening?  Who will the speaker be addressing? What are the concerns and cares of the people listening? Is there an “elephant in the room” that you need to consider? You must know who your audience is in order to best decide how to affect your message on them.

Keep it short.  Since the attention span of most people is rather short, a long speech can take your audience on a one-way ticket to snoozeland.  You will lose your listeners if your speech is too long and monotonous sounding.  Keep it short and succinct with an added punch.

Use imagery.  People remember things when they see images. Using imagery helps to retain the content of your speech and the message you want to get across.  Imagery will also keep the audience entertained.

Use famous lines.  Reference brings with it many ideas and emotions associated with famous people or life-changing events.  You can quote famous lines that reference the Shakespeare, poetry, songs, books, and other speeches. These references bring a lot more with them than just the phrase or quote you use, especially if your audience is familiar with it.

No bombs, please!  Keep it simple – don’t use bombastic words. A great example is President Obama’s speeches.  His speeches are always written in simple English. When messages are made simple, they cut deeper and have more impact.

End strong.  The final impression you make on the audience is the one they will remember. Conclude well. End with a line people will remember, or one that contains the message you want them to remember. Aside from the opening, the ending is the most important line.

Skillful speech-makers are familiar with their written content.  The principles for writing effective speeches are the same, whether for a personal speech at a wedding or a high-powered presentation by a politician or celebrity.  A well-written speech can drive sales, deepen commitment, motivate hearts and minds, and even change the world.   


The 7 Deadly Sins of Television Interviews

Cecelia Haddad, Evoke PR Network

In the world of news there are a multitude of sins that can have an adverse effect on the person being interviewed and/or the organisation they represent.  Some sins are worse than others but regardless they will all lead to a bad experience that could leave a reputation in tatters.

Below are seven of the most deadly of all sins when it comes to television interviews.

1. Sloth – The avoidance of any work

Going into an interview without any research on the journalist, the program or who watches it.  It’s like kicking a goal and having no idea where the post is.  We’ve seen it before unfortunately… The interviewee says little of interest to the audience or has lost them through jargon and irrelevant information.
Penance: 
Do (or delegate someone else to) research past programs, watch a few, get an idea of the host’s tone and that of the program, then formulate your messages accordingly.

2. Gluttony – Overindulgence

This takes the form of going on and on about yourself and/or your organisation without consideration for what the audience might be interested in.
Penance: 
Find a medium between what you want to say and how it is relevant to the audience watching. Give the audience something over and above product/service information that will leave them feeling informed.

3. Wrath – Anger and/or uncontrolled feelings of hatred

Getting heated in an interview – no matter how hostile the question – is a really bad look – it says ‘guilty’, ‘defensive’ and nothing good about your personality for the audience to relate to.
Penance: 
Develop and practice answers to the questions you don’t want to be asked.  If you are prepared well enough, then you will be in control when the tough questions are asked.

4. Envy – Resentment of what others have

This is slamming the competition and being negative about what others are doing. Penance:  Practice talking about your strengths and how you are different from others without the need to point out their flaws.

5. Lust – An inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body

You want your 15 minutes of fame and you don’t care how you get it – so you call yourself an expert when the truth is you aren’t an expert at all.  You get asked a question you have no idea about but you answer it anyway.
Penance: 
Only agree to speak about what you know and let the journalist know your areas of expertise in advance.  If during an interview, you are asked something you don’t know, then be honest and tell the journalist exactly that.

6. Greed – Desire for material wealth

You have just forgotten the rule of PR, which is to ‘make aware or inform’ not sell.  You are so caught up with your sales spiel you didn’t realise that the journalist and the audience has just switched off and you will most likely never be invited back to be a guest.
Penance:  Develop a conversational language style which allows you to talk with your audience not at them.

7. Pride – Excessive belief in one’s own abilities

The original and most serious sin of all.  It is the belief that you are so good at what you do that you don’t need any help.  You may know your topic but if you have not had extensive experience or training in being interviewed you could do irreparable damage to yourself and your organisation.
Penance:  Get professional media training.  Don’t ask your work colleagues to do it they will be too scared to tell you the truth.  Get outside help and do it BEFORE you do the interview.

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About our Guest Blogger, Cecelia Haddad, Evoke PR Network

Cecelia is a partner of the Evoke PR Network.  She has been in PR and Marketing for over 20 years. Cecelia has worked with some of the most recognized brands in Australia and her expertise lies in developing a long term vision and strategy for clients with an inherent consideration to meeting overarching business objectives. She is currently Chair of the Registered Consultancies Group (NSW) which is part of the Public Relations Institute of Australia. For more information, check out www.evokepr.com. *This article first appeared on www.evokepr.com/blog


Rock That Media Interview!

CEOs, Directors and Managers often have to face the media –  it goes with the territory. Media interviews can make or break your reputation and that of your organization’s.

Not all media interviews need be as frightening. In fact, knowing how to get your message across to the media can do a lot to actually promote your business. The trick is to be prepared.

You must go into every media encounter with your own messages – two or three points that you want to get across regardless of the questions you’re asked. What that message is depends a lot on who is reading/viewing/hearing the interview and when. You must tailor your messages for that audience in terminology they can easily understand.

Let’s look at some of the biggest mistakes executives make when dealing with journalists — and how you can avoid them.

1.     Walking in unprepared. Even if you know your brand/company or product inside out, over confidence or being unprepared can be your downfall. So as not to get caught off guard, be sure to review with the interviewer the angle that he or she will be taking and prepare accordingly. It is common practice for journalists to prepare a set of questions ahead of time. Be sure to ask beforehand if they are able to share the interview questions and if it would be possible for you to suggest topics or questions you wish to discuss. This will give you the opportunity to highlight important details.

Dorie Clark, author of What’s Next?: The Art of Reinventing Your Personal Brand suggests creating a “Frequently Asked Questions” list (including challenging ones) and practising until the answers are ingrained. This will get you fully prepared for anything that comes your way – from the challenging thought-provoking questions to the simplest, most obvious ones.

2.     Not understanding journalists’ motives. A key rule during interviews is that you’re always “on the record” unless you specify otherwise. Journalists are always after a story, and more often than not they’re after a specific storyline.

Our advice for anyone interacting with journalists is to always tread carefully and ask lots of questions – What’s the intended focus of the piece? Who else will be interviewed? Where will it run? Which types of stories is the reporter best known for? With these questions in mind, you can craft your answers carefully and avoid offering an answer that will cause you to regret later on.

3.     Becoming hostile. While heated conversations make for great entertainment, you don’t want to be the “guest who gets into a fight with the host.”  What happens when a journalist throws you a curve ball and verves off the intended line of questioning? Or what if a journalist misinterprets your quote and uses it against you?

It is the interviewer’s job to provoke controversy. If you’re stumped with a tough question, you should never attack the interviewer for picking on you. STAY CALM no matter how intense the line of questioning gets. Whether or not you disagree with the interviewer, it will be to your benefit if you choose to engage in a civilised DEBATE. This is definitely a more effective way to get your point across you coming across as aggressive.

4.     Not knowing the difference between “answering” and “responding.” Reporters are trained to ferret out details. Some are silly: they want to know where Steve Jobs buys his black turtlenecks. Some are serious: they want to know the impact of the credit crisis in the US and Europe on your company’s client portfolio. They will ask for as much as they can, the decision  on how much  to feed them depends on you.

There is no excuse for not being aware of a topic or event that’s related to you or your brand/company or product. If for any reason you don’t know saying, “no comment” is not an answer to any question. If you want to sidestep an unpleasant question, answer honestly without providing too many details. It is up to you to decide whether to answer the exact question that’s been asked.

An alternative is to “respond” instead: acknowledge the question, give a brief answer, and then move on to talk about your agenda. Research from Harvard academics show that audiences tend to trust “artful dodgers” more than people who are completely honest.

The hype often gets the best of interviewees, distracting them from their purpose in the first place. Keep your call to action in mind during the entire interview and state it in your conclusion – reiterating your key messages will help you stay on point.

Don’t forget – do it with a smile. An open, friendly and professional demeanour will shine through and allow your audiences to better connect with you and your message.