Being interviewed on TV can quickly turn from a simple question and answer session to a PR disaster, especially if the questions are about a difficult topic. Get it wrong and you will find you or your organisation subject to some unwelcome attention and even ridicule. Storming off set when you are being interviewed by a top-flight journalist is probably the single biggest mistake that you can ever make.

The truth is that it happens more often than you think. One recent and memorable example was the ex-boss of Persimmon who got hot under the collar when asked about his rather large £100 million bonus by a BBC reporter. The question undoubtedly came as a surprise but the sight of this CEO refusing to answer it and then walking away in a huff became instantly more memorable than anything else he had to say.

The problem was that he wasn’t prepared to answer the question and therefore wasn’t ready to be challenged. While many CEOs are used to standing up for their business decisions, not many regularly get the third degree from a journalist. It can take a lot of work and practice to get the responses right, especially if there is a crisis lurking on the horizon.

The Benefits of Media

One of the first things that many CEOs need to understand is that the media can be a big benefit. While you might have misgivings and even dislike the media, you can’t get away from the fact that a journalist might want to ask some pretty searching questions once in a while.

Effective training on how to handle the media is important. It’s not something we do every day so being prepared and ready to comment is likely to give the average CEO an advantage. You may not feel comfortable giving interviews for TV or radio so will need support and encouragement when the opportunity does arise. Regular coaching and reinforcing the benefits of the media can help you come to terms with this part of your job.

The Perils of Walking Out of an Interview

As a CEO you may have your own opinions of journalists, especially if they are asking difficult questions, but that’s not the opinion viewers will have. If you storm out of the interview, they will most likely put the blame on you rather than the reporter. You undoubtedly look petulant and arrogant, even rude. It can also appear as though you have something to hide and then your walkout becomes the story rather than what you intended to say.

The main rule is pretty simple. Even if you are being asked difficult questions, you should not walk off set or terminate the interview because you don’t want to answer. Training to understand and cope with situations where the questioning gets tough or is unexpected is one solution. Trying to anticipate certain difficult questions beforehand and rehearse the answers is another. At least then you can control the situation and bring something positive into your response.

At best, walking away from an interview will make you look weak and evasive. At worse, it will damage your credibility and even cause you to lose your job, as it did a few weeks later for the Persimmon CEO. To ensure you can answer questions in an interview, even if they are uncomfortable questions you need regular media training. Contact the team at Hawkeye to discuss a tailored training plan for you today.