One was a refresher for a regular client in which we developed and rehearsed key messages to prepare the three spokespeople for interviews with journalists.
The other two were for two different clients, with nine trainees in all, none of whom had done very many interviews before (and those they had done were not particularly successful.)
One of the skills they all found most difficult to master was to sound conversational – but not treat the interview like a conversation.
It is not.
In most conversations there is an ebb and flow, you chat, your discurse, you make points, you pose questions – and you answer them.
And we are all conditioned to converse in that way.
But when you come into an interview situation with a journalist there is a different dynamic.
The journalist is there to pose questions and to extract information. You are there to present yourself and your organisation in the best possible light. And those two things are not necessarily compatible.
The journalist may want to discuss topics that you would rather not – not necessarily for any sinister reason.
Our first instinct is to answer the questions the journalist asks, because we are polite and because we have been conditioned to do so.
But when you go into an interview, you have to have a totally different mindset. Your task is to sound conversational, but not treat the situation as a conversation.
When you’re asked a question, regard each one as an opportunity to deliver one of your key messages.
Don’t ignore the question – you’ll sound like a politician and you’ll annoy the journalist.Answer it, but do so in such a way that you incorporate your key message, or you acknowledge it briefly then move onto or ‘bridge’, to an area you want to discuss.
Read more: the ABC of bridging
This is hard. It takes practice. And for each interview, you need to prepare carefully so you are anticipating the questions and working out how you might answer them all, especially the tricky ones.
Download: free interview preparation checklist
Rough House has over 20 years experience of training spokespeople to give interviews with journalists. Contact us to find out more about our bespoke media training courses by calling 020 8332 6200 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.