This article originally appeared on PR Daily in September of 2017.
There are many situations where “be yourself” is good advice—but during a reporter interview is not one of them.
When it comes to interviews with members of the media, you must be a better version of yourself, one that is charismatic, engaging, passionate and knowledgeable. Every media interview is akin to being on stage, and a good spokesperson knows how to perform.
In my media training workshops, I talk about the five Cs: conviction, conversation, composure, confidence and color. These are key ingredients to any successful interview.
Although these are easily defined, it’s often difficult for spokespeople to identify how to put them into action. Here are some specific examples:
When you want to sway public opinion, it’s as much about how you deliver the message as the content of the message itself. When talking to a reporter, it’s just as important.
You must have a firm opinion, along with a clear viewpoint and position that makes you an essential part of his or her story. Being on the fence or wishy-washy about your stance doesn’t make for good TV or a good read.
There is a reason why news talk shows like to bring in commentators with extreme viewpoints: It generates better sound bites (and better TV segments).
Every interview is a conversation on steroids, and no one likes a bully.
In most situations, you can’t—and shouldn’t—try to control the interview to the degree that it’s one long monologue. Instead, establish a rapport with the journalist and actively engage in the conversation, inviting a natural flow of conversation while at the same time steering towards your agenda and key messages.
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Don’t take your cues from politicians. Standing on the pulpit and ranting at or getting aggressive with a reporter never works for the average Joe.
Have you heard the saying “Don’t pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel?” It might be digital ink now, but the saying holds true. Getting angry or overly emotional doesn’t play out well in an interview.
Instead, keep a cool, calm and collected demeanor, no matter how the interview is going. Even when the reporter is overtly aggressive, an even-keeled (but firm) response can play out better than staging a cock fight.
Although most people think of confidence in this context as confidence in oneself, this is about making the journalist and his or her audience confident in your expertise and your abilities.
Great spokesmen inspire us, but also engender a sense of trust, belief and faith in their words and their actions. It’s not just having self-assurance, but about inciting that feeling in others. You must channel that you are credible, trustworthy, knowledgeable and capable of achieving everything you claim.
This typically requires that you establish your credentials and provide facts and background about your experience and achievements as objective proof points. However, it’s also important to look forward and share your vision for the future—including milestones you have yet to achieve or discover. (Remember when Elon Musk first mentioned the Hyperloop?)
Adding color to an interview is more than just answering the questions in an interview; it’s about telling stories.
There is an overwhelming amount of research that illustrates how storytelling helps our brains become more active, improving recall. If I told you that I founded my company in 2002, you probably won’t remember that by the time this sentence ends. However, if I tell you that I started the company six months after 9/11 because that was a watershed moment for me and I, like many other New Yorkers, had to reevaluate the meaning of my life’s work, you’ll probably remember my agency’s origin longer.
Providing details, telling stories, sharing anecdotes and using visualization techniques are all part of adding color, and each are important for a successful interview.
Just like an athlete, you have to train hard to be a stellar spokesperson. This requires research, preparation and a lot of practice.
This is definitely a sport that can be coached, but using these techniques and putting them into action can give you an immediate advantage.
Sandra Fathi is the president of Affect.
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