Any media interview is challenging, whether you’re a new CEO stepping out in front of the press for the first time or an experienced performer. Journalists often ask unpredictable questions or try to trip you up in their search for a headline grabbing quote. It’s their job.

Interviewees usually only have one chance to get things right. Getting your key messages across is important in these situations but journalists don’t always play ball.

Here are some of the main pitfalls you are likely to face in any media interview and how to avoid them:

Repeating Your Media Statement

If a press release has been issued, the last thing you want to do is simply regurgitate this verbatim. Journalists are usually looking for a little bit more and repeating or quoting from the statement can make you seem stilted and rehearsed. Always take that press release message and make it your own, including clarifying points that journalist might want to query.

When the Right Question Doesn’t Come Along

You may have worked out the perfect answer to the key question, but you can never be 100% certain that someone is going to ask it. What do you do if they don’t? Essentially you must have a way of getting your key point across rather than relying on the journalist to deliver everything on a plate for you.

Putting Off the Audience

Over complicating your answers, using odd acronyms or the jargon that goes with your business or sector isn’t all bad. But if you’re talking to a general audience, it’s the kind of thing that you want to avoid. Complicated words can alienate you, so keep it as simple as possible, using plain English.

The Dreaded Space Fill

Phrases like ‘and so’ or ‘basically it’s’ are known as space fillers and they can make your conversation seem stilted and pre-prepared. When we’re nervous or uncertain they can start popping into our replies almost magically. Practice how to avoid putting in meaningless space fillers. It will make your answers during any press conference or interview seem a lot more fluent.

Not Answering Properly

One thing that is guaranteed to get you on the wrong side of journalists and interviewers is not answering a question properly. You may, indeed, not want to say too much about a particular issue but you also don’t want to sound evasive. Taking control of the interview is a key part of dealing with difficult questions and making sure that you stay on track with your agenda.

Being Unprepared

Finally, one of the major reasons that media interviews do go wrong is because a person is unprepared. You need to anticipate the questions that are going to be asked and deliver good answers. If you are not prepared, you can end up giving short answers or get drawn into speculation both of which can cause problems.

Giving an interview, whatever the format, is never easy, even for experienced professionals. Ensuring that you are well prepared and have all the bases covered is important. Regular training is the answer to ensure you are always prepared to deal with any questions in any format. By keeping your skills up to date and preparing for each interview well means that you should be able to avoid most of the pitfalls above. For a discussion about creating a tailored media training package for your organisation contact Hawkeye Media today.