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Top 5 Interview Tips: What to Do When You’re the Company Mouthpiece

by Celine on November 20th, 2007

In the b5 media business channel’s Apprentice challenge, we’re asked to write a post each week answering a specific question or problem. The subject of this task is Kay, who runs a business selling chef’s hats and aprons for children. Here’s this week’s task:

The local newspaper just called: they would like to do a feature on Kay and her business. Kay is excited but nervous. She has heard all kinds of stories about being misquoted and misrepresented. She had been give all kinds of advice from don’t talk too much about your personal life to don’t talk too much about the business. She’s not sure how to keep it focused and she’s worried about the questions: what if they ask her about her brother’s jail time (it was a small time drug charge and wasn’t in the paper but who knows what the media has dug up)? She needs help. She’s asked for your five best interview tips - from preparing for the interview to follow-up. She doesn’t want more than five because she’s already overwhelmed.

What do you say? How should a business owner best present him or her self and the business in the media?

1. Learn more about the reporter and the newspaper. The key is to understand the reporter’s assignment and the context of where the story will appear. Dig through back issues and similar stories, especially ones written by your interviewer. If the reporter covers the “Local Business on the go!” section, don’t worry about personal questions such as a family member serving jail time. If the reporter regularly writes undercover profiles of criminals in the childcare industry, then prepare for something like that.

2. Be prepared. Kay has to present herself as an expert about cooking with children, so she needs to be aware of all relevant information. This includes finding out what other products are out there, even if they don’t compete with hers. Also, she may request the reporter to email her the questions beforehand, or at least to tell her the main objectives of the interview. This gives her a clear idea on what direction the interview will take. If she has an extensive product line, she should review it so as not to leave anything out.

Part of her preparation should also include press kit materials she can submit to the reporter, including the following:

3. Be ready with your own visuals. Before the interview, ask the reporter whether a photographer will be present or if he/she will take any photos. If a photographer will be present, you can offer your office as the venue for the interview. In this case, Kay can bring along her children dressed up in the hats and aprons she sells.

If a photographer isn’t present, bring your own publicity photos. Providing some good photographs will increase your exposure, guaranteed. If you don’t have professional photos, hire a photographer to get two or three shots for your press kit. Photos always capture more attention than just words. Also, reporters like photos because it calls more attention to their byline.

4. Stay focused on your objective. It’s easy to lose your focus when you’re asked some unexpected questions. The way you keep everything together is to know your main objective for the interview. Keep all answers geared towards that objective. For example, if Kay’s main objective is to inform readers about her products, she should answer all questions with respect to the features, benefits, and advantages of her products. If you need some help doing this, a very helpful worksheet is available from Cherry Communications (just send a blank email to prep at cherrycommunications dot com). You can fill it out in preparation for the interview.

5. Take a breath and think before you speak. After hearing a question, pause for a moment and reflect on what you’re going to say before you open your mouth. Don’t assume anything you say is “off the record”, so you should speak as if everything you say will see print. Acknowledge good questions; rephrase bad ones. Make every statement a positive one. If you speak suddenly, you might get flustered or go on the defensive. This sends the wrong signals to your interviewer.

Hopefully, with these five tips, Kay will be on her way to giving sincere, confident answers for her interview.

Thanks to the blogs who contributed: Franchise Pick, Home Biz Notes, Startup Spark, Behind the Buzz, Boss Hatch, Digital Money World, Just Make Money Online, Property Crossroads, Slacker Manager, The 501(c) Files, and Work Boxers.


POSTED IN: General work pimps

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