Don't Be Sarah Palin: 5 Fatal Media Interview Mistakes

How do you make sure you don't blow that once-in-a-lifetime interview? Barry Moltz explains.
June 07, 2011

Public relations can be the small business owners’ best friend or worst nightmare. With social media, consumers now believe more what gets passed to them "peer-to-peer" than any advertising campaign your company can ever execute. This is why every business owner works hard for that special media interview that will put their company’s brand recognition over the top. That same PR can be used effectively to promote your company over and over again, especially if it is with a recognizable media publication.

So how do you make sure you don't blow that once-in-a-lifetime interview? As Sarah Palin learned in the last presidential election, giving a good interview is something that can be learned.

Here are the top five interview mistakes business owners make:

1. You talk too much

You are asked a question and then your answer rattles on endlessly. You are more interested in hearing yourself talk then giving an effective interview. There are three problems with this: a) Fewer questions can get asked so chances for a great sound bite go down; b) The interviewer and audience lose their interest and focus; c) The interviewer needs to interrupt you which looks bad for everyone.

Solution: Practice succinct answers to the most common questions you are asked. The length of the answer will vary by media: in print, less than minute; in radio, less than 30 seconds; on video, less than 20 seconds. It may seem short until you actually time it out.

2. You are not relevant or entertaining

You continue to talk about issues that are not relevant to the listener or you are just plain boring. This is your fault, not the interviewers. It is your responsibility to give a "good interview." No one should have to carry you.  

Solution: Most interviews should relate to what is going on in the world today. Making it current keeps it interesting to the listener.

3. You don't answer the question

This is small business, not a political interview. If you agreed to be interviewed, answer the questions that are asked! Don't dodge them. If you don’t want to do the interview then don’t get started.

Solution: Talk to the journalist ahead of time to find out what areas they want to cover.

4. You are not prepared

The date of the interview "snuck up on you" or you are not focused on it. You have waited this long; do your homework far in advance and then review it the day before the interview.

Solution: Watch or read other interviews by the same media outlet to understand their style and the types of questions they ask. Interviews are a team sport and you want to be a prepared player.

5. You keep trying to sell your product or service in every answer

A byproduct of PR is sales, but it shouldn't be the immediate goal.

Solution: Give expert advice on the types of problems you solve. New customers will then come looking to you for the solutions.

Remember, an effective interview includes these three facets:

  1. Giving relevant information to the topic that is discussed
  2. Being interesting and entertaining (if appropriate)
  3. Creating awareness of the problem your product or service solves

Tell me about your last great interview!