Most of us aren’t trained in media relations, so the prospect of an interview with a newspaper, blogger or podcast can easily overwhelm. While it can be tempting to turn down these opportunities, I urge you to take the bull by the horns and face this challenge if it arises. It can be a great way to raise your profile and gain valuable experience interacting with the media.
Whether you’re being interviewed on behalf of an employer or your own business, below are few tips to get you ready for your 15 minutes of fame.
Role play the interview with a friend before the interview. Skilled interviewers are trained to ask open-ended questions, so brainstorm a list queries that can’t be answered with one-word answers. Even if these exact answers aren’t asked, you will form better answers to tough questions through role play. By the way, credible journalists will refuse to provide questions in advance, but a podcaster, most of whom aren’t journalistically trained, might. I recommend you not ask for the questions in advance, in any case, since your answers will sound more spontaneous and entertaining if they are unexpected.
Think through the impression you would like to create. Write out three things you would like readers or listeners to take away from your interview. Do you want them to think you are a massage therapist who specializes in sports massage and has a knack for relieving pain associated with serious basketball and tennis injuries? If so, write out a bulleted list of the things most people don’t know about athletic injuries but would be surprised to know. Rehearse aloud how you might talk about ways to both treat athletic pain and prevent re-injury.
Boast without making it look like you’re bragging. Most people hate to talk about themselves, much less do so in a flattering way. I consider it my mission in life to help competent people overcome this hesitancy. When it seems appropriate, say at least once during the interview, “People say that they like to work with me/buy my products because…” or “I work well with people who…” or “People love our products because…” It’s an unobtrusive way of showing yourself and your company in a positive light and has the added benefit of instilling in yourself a burst of confidence.
Have a glass of water nearby during the interview. Hydration will help keep your jitters to a minimum and, if you are being interviewed on a podcast, keep your voice sounding better and more relaxed. You can also buy a little time to answer a difficult question by taking a long sip and keep your mental facilities in better shape.
Remember that you have some control of the conversation. It can feel like the interviewer is at the steering wheel, but you can gently steer the exchange in subtle ways. If topics arise that you would rather avoid, keep your answers brief or do what hard news journalists call “pivoting” – guide the question in a direction you would rather take it. (If there is a question you are afraid of answering, role play how you will pivot the conversation towards your preferred messaging.) Also, avoid the temptation to ramble by answering difficult questions with one or two sentences. Be certain to end your answers with a declarative sense of finality, rather than an upward inflection, which compromises your veracity.
Throughout the interview, find a way to hold the topics you would like to discuss at the forefront of your mind but focus on building rapport with your interviewer. The more casual and enjoyable the interview is, the better the result and the greater the likelihood that you will exude confidence, knowledge and likability.
Kristin Schuchman, MSW is a career counselor based in Portland, Oregon who works with creative and mission-driven professionals. She writes resumes and coaches individuals seeking support for career indecision, next steps, work re-entry, advancement, and work-life-balance. She offers a free 30-minute Zoom or phone session and presently works with clients remotely. Find out more at www.sparkacareer.com.