1. Be a great storyteller. The TV journalist asks you a question, and you deliver what sounds like a scripted answer. Big mistake. That’s why Michelle Smith of M Strategies Consulting in Dallas warns her clients never to deliver a canned response to a question. “Use descriptions, share anecdotes, and be conversational,” Smith says. “The journalist’s take-away should be, ‘Company X is an innovative company.’ But you do not say, ‘We are innovative.’ That would sound like you were reading from a brochure.”
2. It’s not a conversation, it’s a presentation. Acting conversational is one thing. Making the mistake of thinking that an interview is just another chat over a cup of coffee is quite another. Says Lee Duffey, president of Atlanta’s Duffey Communications Inc.: “It’s when people are lulled into a sense of camaraderie that they say things they have no business saying.”
3. Take your cue from CNN Headline News. “So many people are used to standing in front of their teams providing proof after proof to justify a decision or explain an accomplishment. Then they do that on camera, and you can just see the interviewer’s eyes glaze over,” says John Radewagen, vice president of corporate communications at the San Jose-based Hoffman Agency. “I teach people to start at the top and give the conclusion first. Start with the headline, and don’t get lost in the proof points.”
4. Be provocative; be passionate. It’s not always bad news when a reporter comes knocking on your door. So don’t play the victim or clam up out of fear. “Have something of substance to say,” says Duffey. “Don’t be afraid to be controversial, as long as you can back it up. Make them want to interview again.”
5. The mic is always on. “Even if the light on the camera is off, the audiotape is usually rolling,” warns Smith. “There’s no such thing as ‘off the record,’ ” agrees Duffey.