Executive Rewind: The Most Common News Interview Trap

Rule #4 of The Media Trainers 10 Rules of Interviewing©: An Interview is NOT a Conversation!

An interview is a message delivery environment. Yes, it still has all the feel of a conversation, except for one major difference: you need to go into it with the mindset of being responsive to questions, but on your terms, and in positive terms.

Dunkin Brands CEO Dave Hoffman has some “conversational” habits that work against him in a news interview. For example, watch his body language and listen closely to his initial response to this reporter’s question:

Hoffman nods affirmatively while a fairly negative question is being asked, and says “yeah” before he answers. Now, you and I know he’s simply indicating he understands the question, but, when nodding, the unfortunate anomaly of TV is that he appears to be agreeing with the question.

Had he listened attentively, kept his head still and after hearing the suggestion traffic in his stores is still down, paused for a moment to formulate a more positive response, and then responded this way:

Next question and a similar result to the first example:

Again, nodding as if in agreement, and verbally validating the question with another “yeah” about Wendy’s entry into the breakfast market. Instead, just listening, pausing for that opportunity to respond on his terms in a more positive way is much more effective to message delivery:

These may seem like little things, but they can leave incorrect perceptions. It’s always important to keep in mind that answers are more important than questions (Rule #7 The Media Trainers 10 Rules of Interviewing©) since answers often are edited into soundbites and should be able to stand on their own. That requires self-contained, positive answers to questions. And always keep in mind that body language accounts for more than 90% of what you communicate.

Hoffman has a very natural and genuine way of projecting friendliness and accessibility. I like the way he addresses a reporter by their first name. That usually has a warming effect on the interview environment. These are positive and strong techniques that probably make him a popular interview guest. Having a consistent process for message development and rehearsing are important for successful media opportunities.


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