Don't be a media interview passenger

One of the single biggest mistakes spokespeople make is giving the journalist way too much control over the media interview process. Yes, the reporter gets to ask the questions. But that doesn't mean you should hand over 100% control of the exchange to them. If you do, over the long term, I guarantee that you will be disappointed with your media coverage.

If a media interview were a car ride...

Instead of asking you to participate in a media interview, imagine the reporter asked you to go on a car ride. 

For most spokespeople, here's how that situation unfolds: The reporter pulls up to your office. You jump into the passenger seat, say hi and put on your seat belt. You're in the car together but  the reporter is the one in control. They have the steering wheel. They're working the gas and brake pedals. They're using the signal light and navigating on the GPS.

Twenty minutes later, they pull over and you get out of the car. Instead of being at your office, however, you realize you're in the middle of a strange neighborhood, asking yourself, "How did I get here?". 

That's how most media interviews unfold. The quotes that result from an interview like that are going to be unpredictable at best.

Now, imagine a different kind of car ride. In this car ride, the car has two steering wheels, two gas pedals, two brake pedals, etc. The reporter's using one set and you're using the other.

That's going to be a very different kind of car ride.

You and the reporter might be going to the same end of town, but you're not going to the same address. As a result, there's going to be a little bit of tension at certain points along the way. To be clear, I don't mean negative or antagonistic tension. But there will be a bit of tension. Because, after all, you have a story to tell.  

This isn't about not answering the question. That's a weasel-like approach that I don't condone. What it is about is having more intention and focus on your story throughout the course of the interview. It's about getting out of interrogation mode and shifting into storytelling mode. It's about using the reporter's questions as on-ramps to tell your story in a truthful, forthcoming but more intentional way.

It's about making the decision to stop being a passenger in your media interviews and becoming a driver. When you learn how to do this, the quality and predictability of your media coverage will improve dramatically.