This informal CPD article Practice (invariably) makes perfect… was provided by Brian Weatherley at B2B Media Training, an award-winning trade journalist, video presenter, business-to-business magazine editor and media trainer.
So, you’ve agreed to do a formal one-to-one interview with a journalist. It’s a great opportunity to get over some positive messages about your company or organization. You know how long you’ve got to talk to them because you’ve already asked them ‘How much time have we got for the interview?’, or certainly should have done. Although the journalist hasn’t provided you with any questions in advance (it’s not mandatory, so don’t expect it) you’ve at least managed to get from them an idea of the topics that they want to cover during the interview. So, you have an inkling as to what you’re likely to be asked about.
Meanwhile, your advance preparation is progressing well. You’ve decided what key messages you want to deliver. You’ve started to memorize them and worked on the supporting narratives to back them up. You’ve also put together an information pack on your company and its activities (including your latest annual report), so you won’t waste any unnecessary time in the interview going over background details. Finally, you’ve put together some good high-quality images to go with it all. Now what else can you do?
How about doing a dummy run? Ask your PR advisor or market comms people to role play the part of the journalist and try answering the questions you think you’ll be asked in the interview. Make it as real-life as possible, including watching the clock so that you stay within time. Above-all-else imagine the worst question-that’s the one you DON’T want to be asked. It could be about poor financial performance, a product that’s proving less-than successful with customers, or how a rival has overtaken you in the marketplace. You need to have an answer, because as sure as the sun rises every morning if there’s an issue with your business, the chances are a journalist will know, and ask you about it. Only don’t take it personally, it’s just their job.
Above-all-else, make your dress rehearsal authentic. Don’t expect to be told the questions in advance-it’s highly unlikely you’d get them before the real thing. Then, when it’s all over critique your performance. Could you have answered that one better? Was there a better explanation to offer? Did you communicate effectively and concisely or simply waffle on and lose your thread? A good tip is to record the interview and play it back to hear yourself in action. You might be surprised by those verbal tics you’ve never noticed before. Then do it all again until you’re fully on top of your brief.
Practice invariably makes perfect. Or as close as you’re ever going to get to it. And that’s exactly why taking the time to prepare properly for an interview in advance, including organising a dummy version of the real thing, can pay dividends. If you already know how you want to answer those awkward questions, that unexpected left field ‘I didn’t see that coming’ one, then when the real thing comes along hopefully you won’t be lost for words…
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