When you appear on-camera for an interview, you are going on the record in perpetuity. Period. Excerpts will be broadcast, uploaded, archived, keyword searchable and available 24/7 on the web. You can do your organization’s brand a whole lot of good with a strong, articulate interview. But if you’re not prepared, you can go down in flames very quickly, and take your organization’s reputation with you.
Here are five things you must never, ever do:
Don’t wing it. Would you ever go into a job interview unprepared? Sit down beforehand and decide what your three most important messages are. Practice them and use them often in an interview. Write a list of the toughest questions you can think of. Practice answering them.
Don’t lose it. Remember Dennis Rodman’s bizarre blow-up in a live interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo? (Start at 8:25 into the video). Even Mr. Rodman later realized he needed to apologize. If you get angry during an interview, take a deep breath, and get back to your messages.
Don’t make jokes. It takes talent—and a lot of hard work—to be a comedian. That eliminates 99.9% of us. It’s fine to smile appropriately in an interview and show enthusiasm when you have a good story to tell. But a lame joke will most definitely be the only thing audiences remember about your interview.
Never say “no comment.” Saying “no comment” always makes you look like you have something to hide. There is always something you can say. If you’re stuck, use a bridging phrase (“What’s important for your audience to know is…”) and get back to your key messages.
Don’t run from the camera. TV new producers love getting their hands on pulse-pounding video of their reporter chasing an unwilling interviewee while bellowing incriminating questions. They will air it over and over again and bake it into promotional spots for the news. If you’re ambushed, calmly say, “I will be glad to talk about this. Please meet me in my office in 15 minutes.” Buy a little time to prepare and do the interview in a neutral location.