2 baseball stars put on a clinic in salvaging an interview

Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez sat down to talk about their pet causes on BTIG Charity Day. When the interviewer veered off topic, the tandem righted the ship—with lessons in media savvy.

Sometimes that coveted TV interview goes right off the rails.

How you respond makes all the difference.

When CNBC’s Bob Pisani sat with baseball greats Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter during the BTIG Charity Day, something magical unfolded for those of us in public relations—a case study for media trainers to show clients exactly how to handle an uncomfortable interview.

A-Rod and Jeter clearly expected to discuss their charities but instead were subjected to a barrage of unrelated questions for nearly five minutes. Awkward queries about the two future Hall of Famers’ notoriously rocky friendship, pop star Jennifer Lopez and events other than the BTIG Charity Day were compounded by Pisani’s mixing up A-Rod’s and Jeter’s names.

For the interviewee who ends up in a live TV interview gone awry, A-Rod and Jeter, veterans of thousands of interviews and countless hours of media training, have shown us a way out.

Follow these three general rules:

  • Have a sense of humor . When the mood gets heavy, lighten up the conversation. A-Rod and Jeter poked fun at Pisani for bringing up gossipy and retread topics, saying they did not realize they were on the E! and History channels. Pisani tried to justify his inane questions by saying they were legitimate, but his nervousness and bumbling were obvious.
  • Redirect the conversation . When the discussion veers off topic, the interviewee can seize control and point it in the right direction. If not for A-Rod’s captaining of the interview multiple times, who knows how far off course this discussion would have gone. Pay attention to the 2:45 mark, when A-Rod masterfully shuts down Pisani’s line of questioning about Jeter’s purchase of the Marlins and resets the conversation to focus on BTIG Charity Day.
  • Be cool . Managing an unpredictable interview and an annoyingly persistent reporter can be a stressful. Keep your patience, and stay in the moment. Pisani tested Jeter’s patience with the repeated questions about the Marlins, but the former Yankees great held himself in check long enough for his former teammate to redirect the conversation.

You do not have to be a Hall of Famer to hit a home run when preparing clients for an interview; just knowing the fundamentals of the game can go a long way toward getting your client through an uncomfortable interview.

Marc Raybin is president of Cardinal Communications Strategies. Connect with him on Twitter at @CardCommsStrats and @MarcRaybin , as well as via LinkedIn and email.

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