How to survive a media interview – watch out for over-confidence

How to survive a media interview - watch out for over-confidence

“Be very clear about exactly what points you want to get across and, regardless of the question (or in the context of the question) deliver them very early and then keep repeating them so there is nothing else left to edit.”

In this next post in the “How to survive a media interview” series we take a look at the experiences shared on LinkedIn by my good friend and colleague Mark Orr, business supremo and philanthropist in my locality in the south midlands of England.

Check out all the articles in this series about how to handle media interviews…

How to survive a media interview – watch out for over-confidence

How to survive a media interview – down the line, radio

How to survive a media interview – how to handle yourself

How to survive a media interview – familiarize yourself

How to survive a media interview – why do it in the first place?

How to survive a media interview – down the line, TV

Rather than have us rant on with our HTWB views, I’m really pleased to be able to share Mark’s story with everyone here as it illustrates just how easy it can be for any of us to get the whole media interview issue wrong. Very wrong.

Confidence in media interviews: good, but dangerous

Here is what Mark said in the discussion that took place in a LinkedIn group…

“When I was younger I was a keen participant in amateur politics. One of my first radio interviews on the BBC taught me a lesson that I never forgot.

I was interviewed about a local campaign to prevent a secondary shopping street being pedestrianised. I was picked to go on because others in the campaign decided I had the confidence to do it. I went on I answered the questions and it was edited and then broadcast. My fellow campaigners were not happy because some major points had been left out or not emphasised sufficiently. Some of that was in the editing but most of it was my fault.

So my lesson was be very clear about exactly what points you want to get across and, regardless of the question (or in the context of the question) deliver them very early and then keep repeating them so there is nothing else left to edit.

I asked the BBC for another interview on the basis that their broadcast had not represented our campaign and they very kindly gave it to me but this time in live debate with the leader of the Council who was promoting the pedestrianisation scheme. This time all the valid points were rammed home early and repeated with the added bonus that the Leader of the Council was ill prepared and unable to defend his position.

I am pleased to say the campaign succeeded.

I think it shows that confidence can be a disadvantage. It made me think I didn’t need to plan. Subsequently, I always asked the interviewer what they wanted to get out of it and what questions I should expect. That always gave me time to think even if it was only seconds.”

Here’s what I replied…

“That’s a good idea, Mark, and it’s something I recommend in the series. You have to be careful though as some journalists will spring surprises on you even if they have outlined what they – supposedly – want to get out of the interview. Always pays to be on your toes and as you say, beware too much confidence…you can trip over it.”

And some very good advice on handling journalists’ questions in media interviews

“You are correct of course Suzan, some journalists will try to catch you out. It is a good idea to have trained yourself in strategies to deal with what can sometimes be completely unfair questions.

I would tend to answer with something to give me time to think and then move back to my own agenda. So, for example “that’s a really interesting questions which needs very careful consideration. before I answer it let me just say that…..” Another way to deal with it which depends on the question is to ask them one back. So for example “I am not sure why you have asked that please can you help me understand?”

It is very important to maintain is politeness. It is not a battle with the journalist and if it was you are never going to win because they have all the best cards in their hand.”

Have you ever found yourself in Mark’s position in a media interview?

Please share your views and experiences!

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