I recently watched an episode of 60 Minutes titled “The Price of Generics, The Most Unlikely Meeting.” While it was a shocking story, what struck me was the interview with William Tong, the attorney general of Connecticut and his expertise in telling the story of how his state is suing generic drug companies. What Tong did extremely well in his interview is what we share in media training: He spoke slowly, concisely, used terms and language that was relatable, and provided specific examples to make his point (I highly recommend watching the segment).
At GroundFloor Media, we frequently conduct media training sessions for individuals and groups, and the following are some of the tips that we share.
- Watch TV/YouTube – Watch interviews and you’ll quickly figure out who the pros are and who shouldn’t be conducting interviews on camera (at least not without a lot more practice). When you’re watching a TV interview, take note of what the person is doing. How do they respond to questions? How do they look on camera, meaning are they credible? Do you believe them? What are there facial expressions like? Do they look angry, scared, guilty? Really good interview subjects will come across as confident, without being arrogant; credible, without selling you; and they’ll keep you engaged in what they have to say.
- Identify your Key Messages – Before your next interview (and this works for a job interview too), come up with your key messages. These are the critical points you want to make, no matter what you’re asked. We tend to remember things in threes, so what are the three most important points you want your audience to know from you? Jot them down, in short, concise sentences and put them to memory.
- Know your Elevator Pitch and Keep it Tight – In every media training we conduct, sometimes the simplest question we ask, “What does your company do?” can be the toughest for people to answer. The issue is that people try to fit in too much or have trouble remembering everything they want to say. This isn’t easy to do, but the better you are about short, concise, 20-second responses, the more effective you’ll be about ensuring your quotes are aired on TV, run online or in print.
- Anticipate the Questions – Before a client conducts any kind of a media interview, our job is to prepare them as best we can. This means conducting background research on the reporter, the media outlet, hot-button issues, industry trends, etc. We come up with questions that the person being interviewed may be asked and make sure they’re comfortable responding (and working in their key messages). We do this because a client only has one shot to conduct a really powerful interview, and preparation is key.
- Practice – This goes without saying because being interviewed by the media, for most people is terrifying. One of the key things to practice is keeping your responses to 20 seconds – have someone ask you questions and time your responses. Everyone has a smartphone, so it’s easy to take of a video of yourself answering questions, working in your key messages, and delivering your elevator pitch. The more you do this and the more you practice, the better the spokesperson you’ll be.