Whether across the table from a news reporter or under the glare of TV lights I’ve found that media interviews pose one of the greatest challenges to strategic communications. Loaded questions, leading lines of discussion and hidden agendas are just a few of the common pitfalls that often throw interview subjects off balance.
Over the years I’ve helped to prepare hundreds of executives and professionals for the most challenging news media interviews. One of the more memorable experiences involved preparing a hung-over Mickey Mantle in time to appear on The Today Show as the new spokesperson during the launch of a new arthritis drug. Demonstrating the discipline of a pro athlete, Mickey practiced and rehearsed all of the key messages that CIBA-Geigy Corporation wanted to hit. And come game time (or, in this case, live interview time with Bryant Gumbel), Mickey delivered. He navigated the conversation with authoritative messages and confident sound bites. At one point he even turned to the camera and said to all of America, “This thing is a miracle drug…It even cures hangovers.” Once again the baseball legend hit it out of the park.
In my experience I’ve found there to be four tiers of effective communication:
Tier One: Simply responding directly to questions at hand
Tier Two: Delivering your messages and thereby controlling the interview
Tier Three: Controlling the interview and delivering your messages in media-friendly sound bites
Tier Four: Delivering sound bites in dynamic and authoritative fashion.
Mantle’s at tier four, no doubt about it. Where would you position yourself on the effective communications scale?