When we’re running an interview skills training course, we put each of our trainees through a series of practical exercises.
These might include a range of newspaper interviews, radio interviews and television interviews, depending on which type the trainees are most likely to face.
To make it as realistic as possible, the subject of the interviews is always related to their business – perhaps an issue the organisation has already had to deal with, perhaps something they know they’ll be dealing with in the coming weeks.
Last week, we were training a group of three senior executives to improve their interview skills. The second interview was about a crucial issue for their organisation – but each of them came up with a different angle on it.
In the real world, a journalist could have written or broadcast three different stories, depending on which one he or she had interviewed. The problem was that they hadn’t clarified exactly what they wanted out of the interview; they hadn’t worked out their key messages before the interview took place.
In the privacy of a training room, this doesn’t matter. After all, an important benefit of being trained in interview skills is that an organisation gets the opportunity to test out their key messages with working journalists. But in the real world, it absolutely does, because if you don’t know what point you want to get across in the interview, you’re missing a golden opportunity.
The journalist will be able to take control of the interview, lead it in the direction he or she wants and write whichever story they find most interesting.
If you go into an interview knowing exactly what you want to say, and stick to it, you’ll have control of it, you’ll deliver your key messages effectively and the story written or broadcast will be the one you want, making the points you want.