A Press Interview is Not About You

CEOs and company spokespeople have to stop thinking that a press interview is about them. It’s not about them; it’s about the story. The story the press is trying to write to win readers. Getting readers hooked on a story is the purpose. That way, a reader will want to return. And the more readers, the more expensive is the advertising space. The more costly the ad space the more job security or future the writer has. (“Job security” is the new oxymoron, like friendly fire. Pun intended.)

The press write stories to attract readers. They want colorful, provocative, even controversial stories. They want a tall tale told truthfully.

The job of the CEO/spokesperson is to enhance the story, to help the reporter write the best story he or she can write. Spokespeople should view their roles as one of subservience. You are there, in the interview, to service the story. The reporter doing the interviewing does not want to hear about the weather, or about your worse airline experience, unless that’s the topic at hand. No, the press only want one thing from you. And it’s not information. The journo wants “color.” They want spice. They want poignancy and pithiness.

And they want it delivered in a simple quote, the fewer the words, the better.

That’s want brevity means. Examples of colorful quotes, the kind of quote that will win you interviews repeatedly, that kind of quote that will get the big 30 pt type call-out, the sidebar quote, are these: “Not having security in place is like running a submarine with a screen door.”   “Not to automate a process is like cutting the lawn with a pair of scissors.” (Okay, the latter is a cliché, but it beats a flat quote.) Both of these are similes. Use them. The press love ‘em. Think in terms of images. Paint a picture. Draw a metaphor. The best quote appeared in the WSJ back when Viagra was making all the headlines. Quoting a nurse, “My body is not a gym.”

Always be quoting.

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