Media Training: Why Do Bad Interviews Happen?

by coach

Media Training 101: Why Do Bad Interviews Happen to Good People?

It’s a mystery. Why do good people get caught in bad media interviews? It doesn’t just happen with celebrities and public officials. Many business people and spokespersons have regretted their performances. If you’ve done your homework, an interview should be a golden opportunity to meet several valuable PR goals.

The basics of good media interviews are simple:

  • Research: know who you’re dealing with; study the type of show, interview style, the reporter or host’s hot buttons, “focus” for your interview; gather your facts
  • Prepare: write your key messages or talking points
  • Learn: know the basic interview techniques and tactics such as bridging and flagging; lots more media training tips at The PR Coach
  • Practice: if possible, get a colleague to ask you a few key questions
  • Communicate: carry out the interview with savvy, class and focus.

In the past several months, we’ve gathered a great set of interviews we can all learn from. We’ve put them together with a synopsis and a link so you can watch and relearn these important Five Key Media Interview Lessons:

  1. Prepare key messages but use them intelligently – Spokesman for Senator Norm Coleman, on the issue of expensive suits, uses key messaging repeatedly. Was he effective? Couldn’t he have rephrased them for better impact? You be the judge. A Simple Question, Yes or No? [3:43]
  2. Be prepared or don’t do the interview – Research; be prepared; know what to expect; be prepared for the worst and walk away if necessary. Was Paris Hilton badly briefed by her publicist, inexperienced or just set up in this Letterman interview? Letterman is relentless on her jail time and she would have been right to walk out but she earns respect for being game. With experience, she could have steered it to her topic.  Paris Hilton on Letterman [7:17]
  3. Never off the record – An embarrassing interview of MySpace PR person by gotcha blogger/journo Michael Arrington. You can say no to an interview and you are never “off the record.”  Have You Seen a More Awkward Interview? TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington Interviews MySpace PR Chief [1:25]
  4. No comment is not an option – Billy Bob Thornton loses it and insists on talking about his music when asked about his acting career. Hard to see why he bothered to be interviewed, because he’s trying to be ultra-controlling.  Billy Bob Thornton Blows Up On CBC Radio Interview [13:40]
  5. The camera and microphone are always on – During pre-interview chatter in-studio, California Republican Senate nominee Carly Fiorina was caught on an open camera and mic on CNN talking about Sen. Barbara Boxer. Basic tip? Assume it’s always “on.”  Carly Fiorina Caught On Open Mic [4:13]

So if you’re a student of media training, I hope you’ll find these lessons interesting and informative. One thing for sure, you don’t want to learn these lessons over and over again, especially, live on camera.

Lots more media training tips and resources at The PR Coach. And if you have a favorite media training clip to share, we’d love to see it. Just shout out a comment below.

Image: Salvatore Vuono /

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