Okay, so you’re a startup founder or a company executive and you have your first interview with the press. Now what?
You feel the butterflies in your stomach, wondering how you’re ever going to do it.
Or, the opposite is true and you feel so confident that you think you can just roll out of bed and just do it. I mean, who knows your company better than you?
Interviews are important things that should be approached seriously as it will impact your business, but not taken so seriously that you pass out. It’s happened before - even to reporters. Check this out:
With these tips and tricks, you can nail your next interview…
Do Your Homework
Check out the reporter’s past stories
Reporters are people too and it’s only fair that you do your research on the reporter. Read, watch and/or listen to their past stories to get a feel for the types of stories they do. It’s also great to follow the reporter on Twitter as you will often get a more personal take on who they are and what they care about.
Ask for Questions Ahead of Interview
Feel free to ask the reporter for questions they intend to ask before the interview. While you may not always get this information, it may be beneficial to your interview prep.
Create Talking Points
Once you have a good feel for who you’ll be talking with, write down 4-7 key talking points for the interview. These messages should be tailored to the questions you get from the reporter and the stories they’ve written previously. Keep them brief, yet succinct and think of them as you would want them to appear in the story - as solid sound bites or crisp quotes.
If you’re concerned the interview will be very difficult and negative in nature, create a “frequently asked questions” document. Draft up any and all questions you think the reporter could ask, and craft responses to those questions.
Talk with Founders with Interview Experience
Another good way to do research is to talk with friends and other co-founders you know who have done interviews before. While they may have limited exposure to interviews, you can relate to them and their experiences to use for your upcoming interview.
Use These Techniques
At some point in your interviewing career, you will be asked questions you don’t want to answer. And that’s okay - it’s expected. That’s why there is blocking.
It is a simple technique that allows you to politely deflect the comment. Here’s an example response to a reporter asking about an investor’s strategy: “I can’t comment on our investor’s strategy. You’ll have to ask them about it.”
After blocking the question, a good way to continue is to use bridging…
This is a good technique to get back to your key talking points. Using the previous example, another way you can respond is as follows: “I can’t comment on our investor’s strategy, but what I can say is I am excited to be working with them and look forward to our partnership.”
Another thing to do is listen for the bigger topic behind the question and use that as a way to bridge. Here’s another example: “Yes, there have been some setbacks in the industry, but it speaks to the new direction the industry is taking…”
Getting reporter’s to hone in on what’s most important to you can be tricky. Flagging is a good technique to help draw the attention where you want it.
Use phrases like “the most important thing to know is…” or “the key aspect with all this is…” Keep your speech tone natural, but raise your voice to emphasize when you want to flag something important.
You can also do this with multiple points like this: “The three key things to know are 1… 2… 3…”
Know These Key Things
You’re always on the record
A reporter may act as though they are done with the interview, but they continue to talk with you even though they put down their notes and/or the camera keeps rolling. Always know that when you’re talking with a reporter that they can use anything you share with them, even if you thought it was just casual conversation.
A technique some reporters use to get information is to simply let you talk. This especially happens after you responded to a question and they simply don’t go straight to the next question - creating an awkward pause that many feel the need to fill the void. Just stick to your talking points, say what you wanted to say and forge through that silent awkward moment.
Practice, Practice, Practice
And last, but certainly not least is practice. Put yourself in as realistic of a setting as possible and focus on using all the techniques listed above and your key talking points.
A good way to prep - especially for TV and in-person interviews - is to record yourself on camera. Setup a video recorder and get someone to read you questions. Then, watch yourself and find ways to improve.
A more low-tech approach is to stand in front of a mirror. This is an old, but effective interview prep technique. It gives you instantaneous feedback and forces you to deal with the awkwardness of looking at yourself as it happens.