May 28 2013
I’m not proud to say that it has taken me to the ripe age of 52 to finally figure out how to nail every media interview. I’ve been teaching executives for two decades a host of concepts, but only now have the five simple steps come into focus for me.
I wish I could say it’s rocket science, but in truth, it’s quite simple, at least on paper. The hard part is breaking old habits, having faith in the process and doing the work. Yes, in the beginning, there is work involved, but trust me, over time, I feel confident you will figure out the simple beauty of the process just like I did.
More on that later. First let me start by revealing step one.
I spent the first 10 years of my career as a television journalist, grilling executives and elected leaders on a host of topics. I used to think I was pretty good at developing hard questions, but over the past 20 years, I’ve discovered the truth. I’m now confident that most people can identify the most important questions to be asked if they just put their minds to it. I’m not talking about a lot of time either - five to 10 minutes is usually enough. Now this sounds pretty simple, right? Yet when I teach this concept and challenge my students to develop questions for the interview they are about to participate in, most only come up with five to seven within five minutes. The problem is they have a nasty tendency to debate the questions with thoughts like “they won’t ask that…,”or my favorite, “I don’t like that question, so I’m not going to write it down.” That’s bad, very bad.
So how do you conquer this problem? When I was in grade school, my teacher taught me a simple rule about questions called the 5Ws and the H: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Every question is based on those words. If you simply start by asking yourself the “who” questions first, followed by the others, it’s amazing how many you can develop in five minutes. I find I can get in the 20-25 question range.
So I’m sure you’re asking, how can writing out the questions really help me? I call it the Law of Practice. When you identify the questions a reporter is likely to ask, you are in essence practicing the interview for the first time. In 20 years of media training, I have yet to find a student that wasn’t more comfortable handling a question the second time around. The more they hear it, the more comfortable they become.
Now here is the real reason why this step is so important. There is a very high chance you are “wing-it challenged.” That means you can’t wing it very well. In 20 years of training executives, I have yet to find a person who can wing-it perfectly the first time. So, if you are wing-it challenged, don’t you think it would be a good idea to have the questions they are likely to ask before the interview?
Congratulations, you are now a graduate of “Communications Rocket Science 101.” Be sure to tune in July 18 for step 2.