The Art of Being Interviewed
By: Josh Baxt, Science Writer
Even for the most seasoned hands, sitting down for a press interview can be quite stressful. Interviewees want to make sure they tell their company’s story, which is the whole point of the exercise. However, they don’t want to make any missteps that might cast the organization in a poor light, potentially alienating investors and other stakeholders.
Giving an interview is a transaction between the person being interviewed and the journalist. In some ways, it’s similar to the interaction between a potential new car buyer and the salesperson. Both know what they are trying to accomplish, but only one does it for a living.
Interviewing is an acquired skill that rarely comes up in lab work or even business school, and virtually no one is born with it. Prospective interviewees should forgive themselves for not knowing all the ins and outs. The key to success is maintaining a growth mindset.
Like all acquired skills, the best way to get better is to practice. Spend some quality time conducting a few mock interviews with the comms team. This is a great opportunity to identify sticky topics, hone delivery and get all the facts straight.
Videotaping is often helpful. It’s an opportunity to assess body language, verbal tics and other potential issues. It will also make these practice sessions more nerve wracking, better recapitulating an actual interview.
Video can also be reassuring. Sometimes the pause that seemed to go on for minutes only lasted a second or two. The tape can provide many good insights.
Keep it Simple
What’s the message? What information should the journalist take away? Again, the comms team can help sort this out. Find the most succinct ways to deliver them. Soundbites are good, metaphors better, stories best. Nothing lights a writer up more than unearthing a hidden Horatio Alger, rags-to-riches startup tale.
Avoid overexplaining. Perhaps a more technically-minded journal or industry outlet will want to know every gory detail about a particular cell line. Otherwise, try to keep to the high level.