How to handle an interview – Learning from the best...and the worst

How to handle an interview – Learning from the best...and the worst

One way I can justify getting sucked into a reality TV show like Survivor is that it’s all research on ways to handle interview questions when you’re thrust in front of a camera.

This year’s Champions vs Contenders Survivor spin-off isn’t as good as 2018’s season, but there’s still a lot that can be learned on how the contestants duck and dive ‘tribal council’ questions.  

For those who don’t watch the show, tribal council is when the ‘tribe’ is brought in front of the host, Jonathan LaPaglia (who 90s kids like me would remember for the epic TV show Seven Days…anyone? Never mind) and Jonathan runs the contestants through their paces, trying to call them out on any scheming or misdemeanours. Anyone who doesn’t do well in this situation is usually the one to get voted out, with their torches ‘snuffed’.

So, the contestants, well the good ones anyway, like Janine Allis (of Boost Juice fame), stay very much on ‘key message’ about how she’s not playing the game, how loyalty is important etc. And she’s doing a great job, actually playing a great game, all the while keeping her reputation intact.   

A lot can be learnt from these tribal councils that can be applied to any media interviews, particularly if it’s regarding a negative topic; keep to your key messages, don’t reveal too much and remember maintaining yours and your brand’s reputation is key. 

Inspiration for these situations can be found across all genres of news or entertainment, including sport.

Remember when Ash Barty become Australia’s first female number one tennis player since 1976?

After claiming the title, the media (disappointingly mostly the Australian media) put a lot of pressure on Barty during her Wimbledon campaign. But at her youthful age of just 23, she got through it nobly.  

In her post-match press conferences Barty remained straight to the point, respectful, with her answers very considered. She didn’t give the media anything they could spin. For example, when Barty was asked to comment on fellow Aussie player Bernard Tomic allegedly not giving his all in his first round, she simply said something like: “I didn’t see the match, so I can’t comment.”

Even after tiring matches, Barty is so controlled in her responses, so much so that during Wimbledon she managed to slip a few Disney references in many interviews unbeknownst to the journos who were instead concentrating on getting responses they could build into a scandal.

Now, while I don’t recommend any of my clients try and trick the media with hidden references, there’s a lot we can learn from Barty, as well as the (good) Survivor contestants:

  • Take the interview at your pace
  • Stay on track and on the question, remembering your key messages
  • Don’t throw anyone under the bus
  • Be humble
  • If you don’t know something, you simply can’t answer the question  
  • Be respectful to your interviewer - respect earns respect

Now I just need a good excuse for why I watch The Bachelor.

Need help defining your interview technique? At Elevate we provide extensive media training where we run you through your paces to be prepared for any media situation. Get in touch today.

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Tags: #media #mediatraining #mediainterview

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