Talking with a reporter can be daunting, but it’s a good opportunity to share your expertise and position your company as a thought leader in the B2G space. In this article you will be set up for success with these 6 tips for the most effective interview.
As a former reporter and former Editor-in-Chief of FCW, I know that dealing with the media can be daunting, especially for government contractors. No one wants to get misquoted or say something that gets misconstrued or makes them look bad in the eyes of customers or potential customers.
Execute informative interviews to position yourself in the space
But in the government market, media interviews are also a great way for companies to demonstrate thought leadership and to shape the conversation around key issues in the community.
With that in mind, I offer six tips for doing more effective interviews—and for making an interview a better experience. To do this,
1. Keep your goal in mind
2. Be fully present
3. Listen carefully
4. Observe closely
5. Moderate the pace
6. Take the initiative
Keep your goal in mind. Whatever the context of the interview, your goal is to deepen a reporter’s understanding of a given issue or situation. You might get quoted, or you might not. You might like the article they write, you might not. But the better their understanding, the more accurate their article is likely to be.
Be fully present. Presence is essential to effective communications, whether it’s on the phone or in person. If you seem distracted—or worse yet, if they sense that you would rather be doing anything else—they are less likely to dig deep, and perhaps less likely (subconsciously) to trust what you say. So, step away from your computer, set aside your smart phone and give the reporter your full attention.
Listen carefully. Listening well is an important part of speaking well. Be sure you understand what a reporter is asking, and why. Don’t assume you know what they are asking, and don’t answer the question that you wish they had asked. If you need context for a question, ask for it. If the question is not clear, ask for clarity: “I’m not sure I follow. Can you rephrase that...?” And if you figure out that it’s a question that you don’t want to answer, just say so.
Observe closely. As the interview progresses, check the reporter’s reactions to what you say. If they look confused or uneasy, check in with them. Don’t make a big deal of it. Just ask, “Does that make sense?”—which is a good question, because it doesn’t call anyone out.
Moderate the pace. If you are discussing a topic that is unfamiliar or especially complex, slow things down. First, that means talking more slowly, literally, to give them more time to absorb what you are saying and to make detailed notes. Second, that means offering more in-depth explanations. If you sense a gap in their understanding, take them time to fill it: “Let me back up and explain my thinking here...”
Take the initiative. When I was a reporter, I often concluded an interview by asking, “Is there anything I should have asked but didn’t?” In that same spirit, if an interview is winding down and you feel like the reporter has overlooked an important line of questioning, feel free to bring it up. Again, don’t call them out. Just say something like, “Before we finish, there are a couple more issues I want to mention…”
Again, it all comes back to helping the reporter develop a better understanding of a given issue. You can’t control what a reporter writes, but you can affect how informed they are. Take that responsibility seriously, and you both will benefit.