7 ways to destroy your media interview

Tardiness, lack of preparation, distractions, and giving too much or too little information can ruin that long-sought opportunity to gain positive coverage.


Finally, you landed that big interview you’ve been waiting for—the one that’s going to get you all that free press you’ve been craving.

OK, maybe a single interview isn’t going to cause your business to explode, but it’s definitely one of multiple steps to get you in the public eye. No pressure, right?

Well, yeah, there’s a little pressure. You certainly don’t want to screw this up. Don’t worry; as long as you avoid mistakes like those listed below, you should be just fine.

1. Not being punctual. Whether you’ve scheduled a phone interview, a face-to-face exchange, or a press conference, you never want to leave anyone waiting. Reporters have one of the busiest, most stressful jobs in the world. Every minute they wait is a wasted minute that they could be using on a different story. As you can imagine, if you leave them hanging, when you finally do show up, they might not treat you kindly.

2. Talking around the questions. When a reporter is interviewing you, they like you to answer their questions—imagine that—but some people tend to go about it in a politician-like manner, talking a lot without saying anything. Rest assured, journalists see right through the BS.

3. Giving answers that are too direct. On the flipside, you need to be careful with how direct you are. I don’t mean you shouldn’t actually answer the question. I’m saying that you don’t want to be so direct that you shut them down. Even if the question seems to be a yes/no question, you should expound a bit so they have something to turn into a follow-up question. Otherwise, you’re going to come off like you’re snubbing them.

4. Getting distracted. This can happen easily if you’re on a phone interview. Picture this: You’re at your desk answering questions over the phone. Your cell is blowing up in your pocket, and you’re dying to figure out what’s going on. You have a pressing deadline and a ceiling-high pile of papers in front of you. Your mind races, and next thing you know you’re fumbling your answers and asking the reporter to repeat questions. Suddenly, the person on the other end doesn’t feel so important.

5. Being unprepared. Do your homework. You should know in advance who is interviewing you, why they’re interviewing you, and how you’re going to respond. You should have also identified some curveballs they could throw your way and be ready for them. If you show up unprepared, you’re going to look like an idiot—and everyone will know it.

6. Using technical jargon. In your line of work, you probably have technical jargon you use daily. From big words to crazy acronyms, it’s standard procedural speech. However, reporters don’t use that sort of talk, and neither does the public. So speak English (or whatever language it is you’re interviewing in).

7. Not giving the truth. It’s just like Mom taught you. Even a little white lie is going to come back and bite you. Never lie to the press, because they will find out. Then they’ll eat you alive.

A version of this article first appeared on PR Fuel.

Topics: PR

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