Training becomes necessary when a spokesperson has to face the media on a regular basis.
If you are a spokesperson and face journalists often, you might have thought about training for media interactions, such as interviews on TV, print interviews, radio sound bites, podcasts, and public speaking opportunities. Formal training can help you in your interviews and prepare you for difficult questions.
Interviews can be rough or smooth, informative or challenging, positive or negative, painful or rewarding. Sometimes they become the best few minutes of your life; it depends on how well you handled the interview and how well you were able to direct the discussion in your favor.
The common perception is that the interview’s outcome completely depends on the host or the interviewer, which is not true. Spokespersons have more control over their interviews than they realize.
I picked up pointers from my own children recently while we were out eating and having fun. It is incredible as to how adults can communicate their messages if they communicated more like children.
Confidence is a child’s middle name. Are you confident enough to lead your interviews?
Kids are confident. They believe in themselves without doubt. If they want a certain thing, there is an unbeatable resolve in the way they pursue their goal. If they want to get something out of their parents, they find a way. Children have control over their surroundings and adapt quickly to their environment.
Similarly, it is important for spokespersons to be confident about what they want to communicate. Be sure of your product, the issue, or the matter you are about to discuss with the press.
If you start out confidently, you have already given your session with the interviewer a direction. This confidence will show in your expressions, your tone, your body language, and the way you handle the questions.
Kids adapt in seconds. Are you ready for your new experience?
Generally, children treat every new activity with excitement and are always prepared for a new occurrence. They love surprises and are not scared to learn from each experience. They are flexible, adaptive, and full of energy.
In a media interview, journalists usually have an angle for their story. Your aim should be to help the journalist cover the angle, along with conveying your key messages.
Be prepared, and keep your key messages handy. The idea is to prepare for an unanticipated question or a change in direction of the discussion that can take the focus away from your key messages.
So, be childlike in the way you respond to such interventions. Be honest, and believe in what you are trying to convey.
If the interview enters a tricky area, adapt to the line of questioning to bring it back to the topic that you want to talk about. Gently but surely, go back to your topic as many times as necessary.
Children can get on your case and don’t give up. Can you get your point of view across just as well?
Children have a way with focusing on what they want. I am often reminded of the promises I have made to my children. They know how to keep their parents engaged and remind them about their own messages consistently. Kids are generally great at following up. They don’t forget; they focus.
Spokespersons can use those skills. No matter what happens, do not let your interviewer keep you away from your topic for long. This will ensure that you leave your audience with what you want them to recall later.
A child’s line of questioning is endless. Are you asking your questions?
One thing that spokespersons don’t usually realize is that they, too, can ask questions during the interview. The idea is to be comfortable in your skin. Who knows how to do that better than children?
Even when I ask my kids to sit down so that I can talk to them about something, they will still ask me questions. The discussion may progress, but the questions continue.
Take your cue here. If you don’t understand a question, ask the journalist for clarification so you can answer better.
Sometimes you can rephrase the question to give it a completely different angle. It is important to understand the thought process of your interviewer to give them precise and relevant information.
Children are candid. Are you being honest in your interviews?
The purest thing about kids is that they are truthful. That’s also the one thing we cannot ignore in our interviews. For long-term perception management and the good will that you wish to create with your customers, it is imperative to always be truthful.
If your company is dealing with a crisis, it is important to have information about the topic. Discuss it internally, and have clarity before you engage with the media.
If you come across a question that you are not prepared for, do not be untruthful in answering. Do not make up an answer for it. Be confident and let the interviewer know that you do not have the answer or the official version yet and that you can get back to him or her later.
Energy and children could be synonyms. Are you energized for your interview?
Children are indefatigable. They can go on for hours and rejuvenate very quickly. Spokespersons need that kind of stamina, too.
Keep your energy up until the end of the interview. This really helps your messages.
Make sure you are energized for three times the period you are anticipating for your studio recording (as recordings can easily get delayed). You have to be on top of your game so make sure you have had your rest the night before.
As you leave your audience with your key messages, do so with positive energy. Do not look like a passive bystander in the interview. Make your energy come through.
This will make you come across as a person who is confident, truthful, competent, and ready for business at all times.
Socializing for children is simple and without fuss. Are you maintaining your etiquette?
Be tactful with your media stakeholders, and leave an impression that lingers.
Exchange visiting cards with your host and the interviewer and other guests if it was a panel interview. Invite them to come to your office for a cup of tea-and mean it. Be compassionate and responsive. The way you end it will be your key message to the people who made it possible for you to speak to the millions out there.
Next time you are expecting an interview, recall these simple seven traits that kids practice without a thought, and you won’t need a guide to prepare for your interview.
Sohaib Mustafa is a communication and public relations strategist at Wordsmith Consulting. He has more than 11 years of experience in corporate communication, business, media and entrepreneurship, and is a football coach, blogger and photographer in his leisure time. A version of this article first appeared on Wordsmith.com.pk.