The month of October has featured the many different kinds of surprises that can happen during media interviews. Here are links to the past three posts on surprises in case you missed them: October 8, October 15, October 22. It’s good to review these so you will be prepared for just about anything. Meanwhile, here is the final post in our series for this month.
As we all know, media interviews can be unpredictable, but you can be ready.
More surprises that can occur when you least expect it
Last-Minute Schedule Changes: Your interview may be rescheduled or canceled at the last minute due to a variety of circumstances, including: breaking news. If a significant news event occurs, your scheduled interview may get bumped or rescheduled to accommodate the breaking news coverage. This can happen moments before you were set to go on air, leaving you without the anticipated platform for your message or expertise.
Other unforeseen circumstances can include technical issues at the studio, the unavailability of the interviewer, or even a sudden change in the interview’s format or content. These changes can happen without warning and may disrupt your preparedness.
Live vs. Recorded: You may expect a recorded interview but find out it’s live, or vice versa, which can affect your level of comfort and preparation. Live interviews require you to be quick on your feet, confident in your knowledge, and capable of handling unexpected questions or challenges with poise. Preparation is crucial to minimize the risk of errors.
As for recorded interviews, they provide a bit more flexibility and room for error, but still demand careful preparation to ensure your message comes across clearly and effectively. You may also need to account for the possibility of editing and how that might impact your message.
Preparing thoroughly for both scenarios will help you feel more confident and in control during the interview process.
Unfamiliar Interview Format: Some interviews may use unconventional formats, such as panel discussions, debates, or round table discussions, which you may not have anticipated. You will need to be able to adjust to the formats since each comes with its own unique dynamics and etiquette. For example, in a panel discussion, you might need to balance speaking time with other panelists, whereas in a debate, you’ll need to navigate the structure of arguing your viewpoint.
Being unprepared for these expectations can lead to a less effective or confusing interview. Also, depending on the format, you may need to delve deeply into a specific aspect of a topic or engage in detailed discussions. This might require a different level of preparation and expertise than a standard interview.
Audience Participation: In some cases, there may be a live audience or social media interaction, with unexpected comments or questions from viewers. You will want to stay calm and engage. Embrace audience participation as an opportunity to connect with people who are interested in your work.
Whenever possible, bridge to one of your key messages. Be respectful by addressing the contributions from the audience, even if they are critical or challenging. Maintain a professional and courteous tone. And be sure and stay focused. While audience participation can be exciting, don’t let it completely derail the interview. Gently guide the conversation back to the main topics when needed. You will want to monitor social media too. If social media interaction is part of the interview, consider having a colleague or team member monitor the comments and questions coming in to help you prioritize which to address.
Editing and Soundbites: The final edited version of the interview may contain soundbites taken out of context or edited in a way that surprises you.
Remember to always be mindful of your words. During the interview, be careful of the language you use and aim for clarity to reduce the potential for misinterpretation.
Reiterate key messages. If there are specific points you want to emphasize, make sure to reiterate them clearly and concisely, as they are more likely to be included in the final edit.
Request a preview. You won’t always get this, but you can ask. If you look at a preview of the edited interview before it’s published or aired, you will have an opportunity to address any concerns about context or representation.
Provide context in your interview responses. Offer context and explanations for your statements to reduce the likelihood of being misunderstood when soundbites are selected.
Be sure and follow up. If you feel that the edited interview misrepresents your views or lacks essential context, consider reaching out to the media outlet for clarification or correction.
Misinterpretation or Misquotation: Your words might be misinterpreted or misquoted in the final article or broadcast. See the answer to the question above for some suggestions.
In addition, during an interview be sure to request clarification: If you are unsure about the context or phrasing of a question, don’t hesitate to ask the interviewer to clarify before responding.
It’s also a good idea to maintain a record: Keep your own records of the interview, including notes or recordings, as a reference in case you need to dispute any inaccuracies.
Finally, be sure to choose your words carefully: Be mindful of the language you use, especially when discussing sensitive or complex topics. Avoid making statements that could easily be misconstrued.
Unexpected Follow-Ups: Journalists may contact you for follow-up questions or additional interviews after the initial conversation.
Legal or Ethical Issues: Questions or comments may touch on sensitive legal or ethical issues that you weren’t prepared to discuss.
If you are not an expert on legal or ethical matters, it’s okay to acknowledge your limitations and suggest that the interviewer consult an appropriate expert for a more comprehensive response.
If you are not comfortable discussing legal or ethical matters in-depth, you can emphasize your personal or professional perspective and opinions while making it clear that you may not have access to all the facts.
Maintain a composed and respectful demeanor when addressing sensitive issues. Avoid becoming defensive or confrontational, even if you feel uncomfortable.
If you anticipate that legal or ethical topics may come up during the interview, prepare some general talking points or statements in advance to help guide your responses.
In some cases, it may be beneficial to involve public relations or communications experts to help you navigate challenging questions and issues.
Surprise Guests: Some interviews may involve surprise guests or co-interviewees, altering the dynamics of the conversation. This is one of those situations where you may just have to roll with it. Keep a good attitude and look at it as a fun, learning experience.
To navigate these surprises successfully, it’s essential to be well-prepared, stay calm under pressure, and have a clear communication strategy in mind. Media training and practice can help you become more adept at handling unexpected situations during interviews.
Let me know if I can help. That is what I am here for.
To your success!
P.S. Surprise! Surprise!
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