Take it from the SPIN MAN himself, Tom Madden, who has prepped America’s top CEOs for the most important interviews of their careers, here’s how to make your next interview a contender for a PR gold medal.

First, Fear Not! 

An interviewer on a news program can spot right away if you’re anxious about a topic or uncomfortable with a question, so fear not. 

Be Disarming

Many executives fear being pummeled by the press, surprised by trick questions, confronted by adversarial, or controversial interviewers like Chris Wallace’s dad, Mike Wallace, as he used to do on “60 Minutes.”

These fears often raise the question: How can I control an interview?   Answer:  You can’t!  But no matter how rough the waves, you can always steer into calmer, more accommodating waters.

You want to disarm your sometimes marauding interrogator by flashing the surest sign of truth and confidence –your smile.  Answer even the most annoying question as if your inquisitor were your lovable grandson whom you sometimes have to patiently, but ever so sweetly, correct.  

Watch Out for Ambush Interviews 

Often media like to ambush, catch you off guard, make sparks fly. How to control interviews are major concerns of those about to face news media, especially during crisis situations.  We often picture intense questioning almost like an interrogation, but often an ambush interview can be subtle and not as easy to notice at first.  You need to be able to detect the signs of an ambush interview so you can be prepared. 

Venues such as trade shows, conferences, public meetings, and marketing events are all places where you may have one-on-one discussions with someone, who just might be a reporter.  Also, be on your toes, because sometimes a reporter could be in a group.  You may not find out until they  start asking questions, yet it’s never too late to temper your remarks.

Best policy is to avoid saying anything that would embarrass you or cause problems for your company if you were quoted the next day in your hometown newspaper or on local TV.  The key is to limit your statements on TV or print interviews to just want you’d like to see reported.  In other words, say what you would want to see on TV as a sound bite, or as a quote in newspapers or on social media. 

Steer Interviews in your directions 

Trying to control the interview is not always the best way to go about getting good press. It can even be counterproductive. 

Controlling an interview can be difficult and sometimes impossible.  You can’t control the questions the media asks or how the reporter will write the story.

What you can control, however, are your own emotions and the words you speakand the points that you make! The best way to approach an interview is to be alert for opportunities for delivering (or slipping in) critical messages that you’d like to get out. 

For TV interviews, I always tell my clients to think of three things they’d  like viewers to remember from an interview.  So, go in with a strategy to plant those points, regardless of what questions the interviewer asks.  Yes, you’re obligated to answer specific questions, but then you can divert to content you wish to impart.  Also, don’t just say “I” or “we” without repeating your company’s name a few times—e.g., “We at Aqueduct Plumbing believe it’s never too soon to fix a leak.” 

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