Interviews: Checkmate and Chance in One

Bert Regeer
senior media trainer

Bert Regeer is a senior trainer for media training and the Inspire2Lead leadership development program.

  • Media training is crucial for maintaining a favorable public image
  • Leaders embody the company and must represent it accurately and effectively in public
  • Develop 2-3 key messages ( using the look-because-so technique)
  • Design stories that inspire using powerful imagery and
  • Focus on what’s relevant for your audience and engage them
Reading time: ~4min
Facing dozens of microphones, cameras and journalists that ask uncomfortable questions is nobody’s dream scenario. Sweating, stuttering, declining questions or getting lost in your answers are unwanted side effects of nervosity and a lack of preparation.
Yet, leaders are the face of your company and the way they behave, communicate and interact with the public carves the image of your firm. This is why media interviews are the crux in gaining a favourable reputation. How do you communicate your messages in a clear and concise manner? Elegantly bridge tricky questions? Stand out in today’s information overload? Here come 3 tips to ensure a good media interview preparation.

1 Have 2-3 key messages ready

Key messages are a tool to ensure that at the end of the interview, there are clear and consistent core takeaways for your audience. It can also be used to reinforce an argument and make it stand out of the masses. The technique itself is rather easy, just use this three-step formula:

2 Design stories that inspire

Storytelling has the capacity to add sparkles to your interview and let your audience relate with what you are saying. Storytelling isn’t remotely a 21st-century leadership skill. Humankind started storytelling roughly 35,000 years ago to engage, to share emotions and to relate personal experiences. Not only do stories connect us to the past and express universal beliefs, they can also help us develop a better understanding of the world and those we share it with.

Why stories? We live in an age of information overload, in which it becomes increasingly difficult for audiences to filter what is relevant and important. Impactful stories are sticky – they can cut through all the disruptive communication noise, and deliver messages in a way that audiences will remember. Stories are the superglue of messages that enable you to package your content in a way that every person in your audience will grasp what you are saying.

Cognitive dimension of stories. Stories stimulate our brain: More areas of our brain are activated when we process stories than when we process other forms of information such as facts and data. When we hear stories we create mental images, we feel the emotions, we anticipate what will come next. They alsomake us feel more cooperative and engaged: Hearing compelling stories releases chemicals, like oxytocin, in our brain, that are associated with feelings of safety, empathy and satisfaction. Under the influence of these chemicals we’re more open to connecting and collaborating with others. Storytelling is great for memory too: When triggered by emotionally charged events, the brain releases dopamine and cortisol. These chemicals help to boost memory and information processing.

Transformative storytelling. Ideally, you make use of transformative storytelling during an interview. This takes your audience from disbelief to a Yes We Can! state of emotion. Here is an example of how this could work out for you:

Make sure that the story is interesting for your audience and that it has clear characters (a hero, an adversary). Ideally, your story implies a deeper moral that mayb runs through it in form of a metaphor.

3 Engage your audience

In any form of communication, the audience is the center. That means, we need to be clear about the recipient of our message(s) and tailor the way we speak, use vocabulary, dress and gesticulate to the needs and expectations of the audience. If you don’t do this, it will be hard to relate to what you’re saying and people will disengage from your talk. A prominent example of this is when you are giving a presentation in front of a team and notice that most of your people are looking at their smartphone instead of listening to you. Here are 3 simple but effective steps you can employ to become a likable speaker in the eyes of your target audience.

  1. Research your target audience. Particularly, try to put yourself into their shoes and understand what keeps them up at night, what their daily live looks like, what their fears are, popular attitude, opinions and opportunities. Drawing from marketing, creating audience personas really helps if you have the time and if the appearance you will be making is worth the effort.
  2. Engage them through storytelling and by bridging from the bad, the now, their fears to a desirable future state. The bridge should be your solution/idea/approach.
  3. Mesmerize through eye contact and body language. After every sentence or longer pause in your speech, change eye contact. If you have a crowd in front of you, start with the outer audience members and work your way towards the middle. Avoid ‘jumpy’ eye contact, that signalizes insecurity and people unconsciously look out for these cues of incongruence because that’s how we’re built by nature. Secondly, try to at least be aware of your body language and pairing one gesture with every key message surely doesn’t hurt. Avoid being overly static in front of people!

Are you a PR professional, leader or manager and do you feel nervous when the cameras are all on you? Do you sometimes get lost in the clutter of journalist questions and think at the end of a press statement “I did not get across what I really wanted to say”?

Brushen up your interview skills in a real studio setting and join our media training led by top-notch experts in Hilversum! 


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