Everyone has those days when you are just not at your best. Perhaps you’re tired, over extended, or maybe even getting sick. Whatever the reason, you definitely can’t let that be seen during a media interview – especially one on camera. When on camera, more than just the tone of voice comes through. Body language and facial expressions are also a factor and can be telling clues that the interviewee would rather be elsewhere. A good example of this is the cringe worthy interview between “Good Day Sacramento” and “Paper Towns” star Cara Delevingne. In case you haven’t seen it you can watch all the awkwardness here.
As a bit of background, promoting your movie and going from one interview to the next isn’t easy. In the PR world we call these media tours. You are often in a small hotel room with hot lights and multiple cameras pointed directly at you. There is a parade of journalists coming in to interview you in-person or via satellite. Asking the same questions over and over again. It’s exhausting.
I’ll be the first to say, the interview in question doesn’t start off on the best foot with the anchor calling her ‘Carla’ rather than Cara – and it goes downhill quickly from there. You’ll probably agree that Cara seemed completely uninterested, somewhat tired, and a bit snarky with her responses. Perhaps it is her British humor. Regardless, it didn’t go over well. When you take into consideration her body language, facial expressions and tone of her voice, it really becomes apparent that she just isn’t feeling the interview. The really awkward part comes when they call her out on her disinterest and end the interview abruptly. I don’t think either party came out a winner with this interview. Both sides had their faults, but the good news is you don’t have to follow this path.
At McGrath/Power, our clients often need to participate in media tours, especially around a major announcement. These tours are often a multi-city event where they meet with journalist after journalist in a similar fashion as the scenario described above. Before we set out on a media tour or any media interview for that matter, we provide clients with a few DOs and DON’Ts to prepare them for what can be a rather daunting affair. Before you set out on your next media tour, keep these tips in mind.
- Get plenty of rest – I don’t know about you, but I don’t perform at my best when I’m tired. And I think we’d be pretty hard-pressed to find someone who can perform well on only a few hours of sleep. Before your marathon of interviews, get a good night’s sleep. It won’t just help in how you feel, but also in how you look. No one wants bags under their eyes when they will be on TV (Am I right, ladies?).
- Stay nourished – Just like with not getting enough sleep, if I am hungry I am probably not on my “A” game. Like many others, I tend to get “hangry” – a combination of hungry and angry, and it’s not pretty. It’s a good idea to schedule in food breaks so that you are forced to stay nourished. We also recommend keeping water handy as you tend to get parched when talking for long periods of time.
- Leave the personal items at the door – As I said before, we’ve all had those days where something is off. It is best to leave those feelings at the door. If your mind is somewhere else, you will come off like Cara did in her interview. Stay in the present to stay focused on the interview at hand.
- Grace under fire – At some point during a media tour you are bound to get a question that might be out of line, or awkward in nature. Perhaps it’s a personal question or a question that you are not completely comfortable answering. You may also find yourself in a situation where you’re asked a question that might be perceived as silly. For example, in the “Good Day Sacramento” scenario, when Cara is asked if she read the book before accepting the role. Rather than respond defensively, one could always make a light-hearted joke or answer the question with a positive tone. A good response in the case at hand would’ve been: “Of course I read the book! John Green is one of my favorite authors, so you could imagine my delight when this role came about.” It is best to anticipate these types of questions in advance and know how you will respond. Which brings me to my next two points, preparation and practice.
- Prep time – At McGrath/Power we assist clients in preparing for media interviews in a couple of ways. Let’s first talk about pre-interview prep. For this step, we first prepare a list of expected questions before we send clients into interview situations – yes, we even include some of those awkward questions mentioned earlier. Practicing how you will respond to these questions will make it seem effortless on your part. You’ll probably even get bonus points if you’re asked a tough question and respond with the greatest of ease.
- Practice makes perfect – Part and parcel to preparation is practice. To really prepare you for an interview, you first need to see what this will look like. At McGrath/Power, we conduct mock interviews with clients where we play the journalist and asked the questions we’ve previously prepared. In these situations we give you two different types of interviews. The first is an interview where the journalist is friendly and goes with the flow of the interview. The second interview is more of a tougher conversation where the journalist is a bit more skeptical and fires more hard-hitting questions. Following the mock interviews we provide feedback and go through the areas where the interviewee excelled and discuss the areas where more practice might be needed. Running through these two scenarios really helps in making sure clients are comfortable and ready for the upcoming interviews.
- Know who you are speaking to – This is a big one. It is important to know who you are speaking to beforehand and know any personality traits about them. To prepare our clients, we provide them with briefing sheets, which include detailed information about the premise of the interview, how we got to this point, what the desired outcome is, steps to achieving the outcome, background on the journalist and publication, and lastly, recent articles they have written. It is important to have an understanding of these aspects so that you are able to connect with the journalist, and have a better understanding of their personality and beat before you go into the interview.
Being included on the worst interviews list is not a list you, your PR team or your company wants to be on. The main takeaway here is that you have to take media interviews seriously because they can impact your personal brand and the company’s brand. First impressions mean a lot and you only get one shot at it so make sure you’re on your “A” game.
Sadly for both “Good Day Sacramento” and Cara, it is doubtful we will see her interviewed on that show for her next film. Perhaps they may prove me wrong, but my hope is that both parties have learned a lesson here and they will both be better behaved during their next encounter.
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net