The Four Keys to Mastering Media Interviews

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(DGIwire) — Talk shows and news shows alike heavily rely on celebrity interviews to boost their viewership and ratings. Of course, this is not a one-way street—celebrities can benefit from these TV appearances as well, since they usually have a new movie or TV show to promote. Ultimately, though, it helps them sell their biggest commodity—themselves.

Not all interviews—or interviewers—are created equal. Scheduled interviews veer wildly off track when either the celebrity or the interviewer tries to push a personal agenda. Take, for example, actor and comedian Russell Brand’s 2013 appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Brand, famous for his unpredictable antics, was on the show to promote his then-upcoming comedy tour, but quickly realized that the hosts’ only interest was in mocking him. Fortunately—and as a testament to his savoir-faire—Brand regained control over the interview and offered an off-the-cuff, on-air critique of cable news.

Unfortunately, many people aren’t able to bounce back this easily, and find themselves the butt of a media interviewer’s misguided and hurtful humor. For celebrities, this could mean the front cover of a tabloid, but for leaders of publicly traded companies, a bad interview can result in a tarnished reputation and a loss of share price as well as a loss of face.

Any company—publicly traded or otherwise—is only as reputable as its leadership, which is why interviews with the media can be make-or-break moments. Here are some invaluable tips to ensure a positive and beneficial interview for all parties. They are offered by Dian Griesel, Ph.D., President of Dian Griesel International, an award-winning media relations and news placement agency based in New York City. She is also the author of a new book, ENGAGE: Smart Ideas to Get More Media Coverage, Build Your Influence & Grow Your Business.

  1. Know your environment. Inquire about the nature of the interview, including the exact topic(s) to be discussed. This will give you a good idea on what you need to do to prepare for it. Which leads to…
  2. Prepare.Before agreeing to an interview, decide on the top three or four points you want to make. Knowing this ahead of time will ensure the important information comes across, and you’re not wasting precious on-air time with minor chitchat.
  3. Don’t underestimate a reporter’s agenda. Anticipate that any journalist will have done research on you and your company and that they will ask hard-hitting questions. Failing to prepare answers for these tough questions will make you look like a deer caught in headlights and potentially damage your credibility.
  4. Be professional. This includes: arriving early to the interview location with appropriate photo ID; avoiding alcohol prior to the interview, regardless of how you think it might help you relax; being aware of time, since interviews are typically three minutes long and you’ve got a lot of ground to cover; and not bringing notes on the air with you—you will look amateurish if you do.

Some companies offer media training for their most visible employees, but many don’t have it in their budget. For those who are preparing for an interview and want even more helpful lessons, Dian Griesel has them covered. “Interviews are an ideal way to put your best face forward and attract the attention your company deserves,” explains Griesel. “Don’t get caught up in the media’s agenda—use the interview to its full advantage.”

Sage advice—and there’s a lot more of that in her new book.

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