Executive Rewind: Anticipation is a Key to Interview Preparation

Social issues, politics, economic policy, competition…just a sampling of interview topics that’s fair game for the media.

As a business leader, how do you prepare? What’s your process for developing focused, responsive, positive and persuasive messaging without being sucked into a counter-productive exchange?

Here’s a range of examples for you to consider:

The Obama Administration has decreed transgenders’ rights in their choice of restrooms and locker rooms in public schools. Some state governments are pushing back, while more than a few businesses in the private sector are falling in line.

Target, for instance, responded quickly and comprehensively. But just how effectively? When the company’s CEO, Brian Cornell, answered the question, he missed an opportunity to make an immediate and, hopefully, persuasive impression on dubious audiences. First, listen to his full answer:

Of course, this is a very controversial issue, tied to strong emotions, safety chief among them. With that in mind, Cornell backed into his stronger answer, which may have been lost in all the verbiage. Instead of burying a more “soothing” fact that could help his case, what if he had started his answer right here:

During any presidential campaign, but especially one as extraordinary as the current one, the media make the inevitable attempts to get business leaders, especially in the highly regulated industries, to choose a candidate. There are ways to avoid that, but still send a message to whomever takes the White House, as Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan did in this interview:

Trump, of course, has threatened American businesses that take their factories across the border or overseas with heavy tariffs. Ford Motors’ is expanding into Mexico and is one of Trump’s verbal targets. Apparently, Ford CEO Mark Fields has talked privately with Trump about that, which came out in this Q&A, including what he probably told Trump:

More mundane, but definitely a staple issue: market competition. There are a number of players in the 3D printer business. And, predictably, price is a major consideration. Listen to how Hewlett Packard CEO Dion Weisler deals with that:

That’s right, Weisler never mentioned price, per se. Instead of getting into a cost comparison, he opted for HP’s competitive advantage: His 3D printers include exclusive “short-run manufacturing.” Like a new car with the latest tech package, that has more emotional appeal that often can overcome price.

Bottom line: there are techniques to handle questions, especially the ones you don’t like, responsively, positively while staying on message.