By Derek Avery
Facing the press can bring out the worst in people. Not only do many interviewees fail to prepare themselves properly for the press, but many also anticipate the worst cast scenario: they expect hostile interviewers and the fear inaccurate journalism.
Unfortunately, these fears are not wholly unjustified. At the nations level in the UK we are fed a daily diet of trial by press. Theses trials make good viewing or listening. Confrontations give us winners and losers and are easily justified as being in the public interest. It's easy to remember examples of people being publicly humiliated - politicians, sports personalities, business leaders and so on.
We all have our own favourite memories and as a member of the audience, you may find yourself urging the interviewer on to more ruthless; to pin down the truth.
But what happens when, the next day it's you in front of the camera? If you are one of those people who's job it is to represent the public face of your organisation, how can you prepare yourself for the press?
In the first instance if you believe the interviewer to be an enemy you'll probably end up in a war. And since the interviewer will typically have far more interview experience then you, you'll probably be shot to pieces. View the media as an opportunity however, and you can promote your cause or business and get an immediate and extremely valuable return.
There's an important issue here that concerns the press interviewer or programme presenter. They will of course want a piece that entertaining or informative but, generally speaking it's not in their interest to be hostile - because this will loose them the sympathy of their audience. In deed typically, they want their interviewees to perform well because this makes them appear to be doing a good job.
In this respect the questions they ask are usually fair or, at least they will be the ones that the interviewers think there audience want answered.
In interviews most of the trouble starts when interviewees try to fudge an issue, hide the facts or display an ignorance which highlights a public concern. In such cases, interviewers will become more inquisitorial. They are off course different guidelines for the different media you might have to face. Getting to know how different people in the different sections of the media industry work can be well worth while. However if we take the issue of the press or broadcast interview there are some solid ground rules which can help you along the way.
If you are invited to give an interview don't fool yourself into thinking it will be alright on the night. When you know you have an interview coming up list the likely questions you going to be asked and your answers to them and consider the way you can turn them to your promotional advantage. Many people write their answers down but it is a mistake to try and memorise specific words. What you want to aim to be is genuine and spontaneous so make sure that you are clear about the underlying message rather than the specific vocabulary and be prepared to be natural. This is of course the most difficult trick of all but it can help to remember that the interviewer want you to do well.
Listen to the question that you are asked
This sounds so obvious but how many times have you been exasperated by politicians who refuse to answer the question that has been put to them? And when they evade the question what do you think of them as a result? They may have been coached in thinking that they have to get their message across at all costs but in live situations the skilled interviewee provides genuine answers. It's also fair to ask the interviewer before hand what the first question is going to be. Knowing where you are going to start can help you be clear about the line that you are going to take and give you the opportunity to set the agenda for what follows.
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