Coach Wooden and the Winning Interview

I have a friend who is an author and historian, and as such he’s oftentimes contacted by his local paper to comment on a news story related to his expertise.  Recently he was quoted in a story, and when I asked him about it he grumbled, “The reporter talked to me for 45 minutes and all he used was a throw-away line I gave him at the end.”   That wasn’t the first time I’ve heard someone complain about an interview that didn’t come out as hoped.   So when you get your chance to talk to the media, what can you do to succeed in getting your message out?  The answer is preparation…and execution.

The great college basketball coach John Wooden used to tell his players, “Failure to prepare is preparation for failure.”   And while it’s impossible to know if a reporter will use the quote you want, you can almost guarantee he or she WON’T if you aren’t prepared for the interview.  That means you need to organize in your mind what you want your message to be.  At Media Makers Consulting, that’s the first question we ask clients:  What is your “story”?  If you know the “story” you want to tell, it’s a lot easier to control the direction of the interview and score the message points you want to make.

That’s where execution comes in.  Reporters are looking for information, so anticipate what they might need and have any relevant data at the ready…and make sure it supports your message.  Also, help the reporter out by providing that data in the simplest form possible.  The easier it is to understand, the more likely he or she will use what you offer.

And while reporters need information, they just LOVE a good quote.   Feed that desire by clearly and precisely providing lines that emphasize your “story.”  Jargon and other mumbo jumbo are strictly verboten– just like the information you provide, make your comments simple and easy to understand.

Of course, there are never any guarantees, but by following these few guidelines you will have an excellent shot of getting exactly what you want out of any interview.

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