If you concentrate on answering interviewers’ questions in press interviews, you’re putting your result in their hands. If you’re lucky, their agendas match yours, leading to a happy result.
Don’t do that.
Hoping for good luck is not a plan.
Instead, concentrate on the three points you want to communicate and use interviewers’ questions as cues to help you do that. Now you’re in charge. And you make interviewers’ job easier. Instead of piecing together stories from scratch, they can tell your story – with their perspective on it.
Next, take control of interviews. Time is on your side if you stay focused on what you want to communicate and you control the dialogue, just as it’s on someone else’s side if they control the dialogue.
I have done a lot of interviews through the years. I continue to be interviewed by others and to interview leaders for my articles here (over 500 so far on Forbes.com.) One of my guidelines is not to go into an interview until I am clear on the “slant” of the article if I’m doing the interview or the three points I want to make if I’m being interviewed by someone else.
And I’m generally transparent about my going-in point of view on the story. I’ve found it to be helpful because very few people look at interviews as win-lose propositions. Instead, they want to collaborate to craft a story valuable for the audience.
In many ways, interviews are moments of impact. Like all moments of impact, think through the prelude, manage the moment, and follow-up.
Prelude – Prepare in advance
Objective—Be clear on your single objective for each press interview. What do you want the outcome and impact to be? Think in terms of effect on the ultimate audience: what you want them to be aware of; what you want them to understand; what you want them to believe; what you want them to do. Secondarily, think through your “Hidden X” – how you want them to feel about you after they read, listen to or watch the piece.
Anticipate questions—Know the interviewer, the audience, and their interest factors (things like competition, conflict, controversy, consequences, familiar person, heartstrings, humor, problem, progress, success, unknown, unusual, wants/needs.)
Twitter is a fantastic tool for this. Almost by definition, journalists want people to read, listen to, or view what they create. So, many of them Tweet. It’s astounding what you can learn about interviewers by reading their recent Tweets. In one case, I figured out that someone who was about to interview me was a rabid Philadelphia sports fan. Despite being a New York sports fan myself, I chose Philadelphia sports examples to illustrate the points I made to him. He loved it – as did his readers.
Approach—There are always different ways to get to your objective. Figure out the most appropriate approach for the interviewer and their audience. Think about this as a communication strategy. This will lead to:
Key communication points: Get clear on the three points you want to drive. This is the most important thing to do to allow you to do more than just answer questions (merely cues for your points.) If you take away one idea from this article it’s this one. Going in clear on your three main communication points is the key to make the most of press interviews. These points need:
Support: Facts, personal experience, contrast/compare, analogy, expert opinion, analysis, definition, statistics, and/or examples.
Be clear, concise, complete (do one thing well,) constructive, credible, controversial, captivating, correct (must correct significant errors on the part of interviewer or press.) Be yourself, liked, prepared, enthusiastic, specific, anecdotal, a listener, a bridge, cool.
Deliver on commitments you make to the interviewer. If you say you’re going to send them more information, send it. Soon.
Afterwards, think through what worked particularly well and less well to improve for the future. Then leverage those insights as you prepare for the next press interview.