Smart Media Training: Hit Singles, Not Homers to Score with the News Media
C-Suite executives are home run hitters. They’re used to hitting the ball out of the park for their companies, and then sharing word of their prowess to ensure as many people as possible are aware of their achievements. After all, that’s how most of them climb to the top of the corporate ladder.
But when it comes to dealing with the news media home runs are definitely not the way to score. To win with journalists you need to play small ball; in other words, try to hit only singles. Reporters, especially in broadcast news, want succinct and direct answers to their questions. What they don’t want are interview subjects who drone on and on, the verbal equivalent of slowly trotting around the bases.
So picture yourself at bat, ready for the reporter or news anchor to pitch you questions. Having trained properly, you’re prepared to respond to any question that may come by delivering clear, convincing and succinct answers.
The reporter throws you a question. You swing, connecting with your answer, then start running towards first base, aiming to deliver a key message. As soon as you articulate that point, you‘ve stepped on the bag, safe at first. Congratulations. Stop running. Do not try to round the base. Do not try to stretch your single into a double. Simply stay on first and let the next pitch come; in other words, stop talking and let the reporter ask the next question.
Unfortunately, many interview subjects don’t have the discipline to simply be quiet after making a key point. They try to add more, going beyond the scope of the question, and that’s when they get into trouble, transforming a good answer into a lousy one.
The smarter approach is to simply let the journalist pitch the next question, then hit another single. Reporters will appreciate your clarity and brevity, as well as your recognition that an interview should be a conversation rather than an opportunity for the guest to deliver a monologue that no one really wants to hear.
Becoming a good interview subject requires discipline, just like playing baseball well. We don’t want to swing at bad pitches in the form of misleading or misinformed questions. We don’t want to try to hit home runs by saying too much. The savvy executive meeting the media learns to become a singles hitter. Single, after single, after single is the way to score with the media.