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Interview Prep Tips for Professional Services, Part I

media trainingThe adage that it takes a lifetime to build a reputation but only seconds to destroy one or that you only make a first impression once can be applied to a wide array of scenarios, including your interactions with the media. It’s always surprising, then, why so many people think that can just “wing it” when it comes to media interviews. This approach is common across many industries, but especially true when it comes to professional service firms. Whether accountants, investment advisors, lawyers, financial planners, architects, or engineers, subject matter experts in complex fields too often miss the mark when provided with media opportunities. The reasons as to why so many professionals take this view could be the subject of an entire blog post. Rather than focus on the problem, I want a take a closer look at a reasonable solution that works: media training and interview prep.

The truth is many professionals don’t think about media training or aren’t presented the option, but taking some time to explore interview tips and practice media scenarios can make all the difference, especially when the subject matter is technical, complicated, or complex. Let’s examine some straightforward media training best practices that can help professional services firms and their subject matter experts shine during their next interview.

Content Tips

Messaging during a media interview is key. This statement may seem like common sense, but too few professionals take enough time to consider and outline their talking points in advance of an interview. Here are three tips to help:

  • Craft 3 – 5 talking points/core messages in advance of your interview. You should revisit these talking points throughout your interview because you want a reporter to retain them. Ensure they’re your strongest messages and keep hitting them.
  • Remember to keep your answers direct, focused, and brief. The average soundbite is 7.3 seconds or 15 – 21 words. That’s not a lot of time and extraneous details will muddle your core messages.
  • Don’t talk in technical jargon. It’s easy to do and various professions speak in their own jumbled languae of acronyms and terms. Apply that great high shool writing lesson – KISS – to your interviews: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Delivery/Presentation Tips

While your messaging/content serves as the foundation of a media interview, how you deliver that message is equally important. Here are tips to address the three most common issues when it comes to delivery during interviews.

  • Gestures can be impactful, but you have to commit to them. Find a few places in an interview to gesture and go all the way. Halfhearted attempts or too much fidgeting is distracting.
  • It’s always good to take a pause before you answer a question. Even if you know the answer immediately, a brief pause is your friend. This strategy allows you to collect your thoughts and ensures that the reporter is focused.
  • Don’t try to be flippant or funny. This is true both in terms of your delivery and content. When in a media interview, you’re job is to share your expertise and be professional. It’s not to be funny or cute.

It’s important to note that these tips and best practices are applicable to any interview setting.

Given how critical media training and interview prep are for professional service firms, I’ll tackle this issue in a series of blog posts. Today’s post provides a nice foundation for interview prep solutions. Next month, we’ll review additional delivery tips that are geared to specific interview scenarios. In the third and final post of this series, we’ll explore how to develop interview messaging that sticks. Stay tuned for more insights!

A co-founder and partner, Andrew has been honored by Bulldog Reporter, PR News, and Style Weekly. He develops communications and PR strategies that help clients achieve their goals.