Sharpening Your Interview Skills
By Kathleen Hessert - Sports Media Challenge
Last few seasons saw one of the highest turnover rates in the coaching profession. As we’ve seenrepeatedly, having a winning record doesn’t always guarantee contract renewal. However, coupling fine-tuned communication skills with a terrific program may help ensure your coaching longevity.Media interviews have become the place in which you’re often forced to explain and defend everythingthat affects your program or sport regardless of whether it’s within or outside of your influence. When yousuccessfully handle media inquiries, interviews become an increasingly valuable coach’s tool.You may never strive to make the "All Interview Team", however, no one wants or can afford to bemisinterpreted time and again. The key here is to prepare and create a game plan to improve your interviewing score. When done well, you’ll be able to better avoid dangerous misquotes and other medianightmares.From an interviewer’s perspective, the prime requirements for being dubbed a good interviewee are:providing frank and candid comments, accessibility and the ability to explain ideas in an articulatemanner. Conversely, from the coach’s corner, the objective is to get your message across as quickly andconvincingly as possible. That requires focus, clarity, conciseness, repetition and charisma. All five can beattained by creating your own Interview Prep Checklist to use as a guide.Before we get to the checklist, let’s explore one area that gets coaches in trouble. "Off the Record"comments can be dangerous. If you choose to take the risk, be certain you know what’s on the line. Makesure it means the same thing to everyone involved and confirm it beforehand.What does it mean to you?1.Your name won’t appear in the story but the information will.2.Your exact words won’t be used in the story but the ideas can and will be attributed to a "sourceclose to the team".3.The reporter can’t use your information at all. It was only for background.4.Your identity (as the source) will never be used in any way or divulged to anyone...even in a courtof law.Now, back to how you prepare to deliver the information you want publicized. Your customized InterviewPrep Checklist should address both content and delivery. The checklist should prompt quotablecomments and help you anticipate and avoid misquotes. As in a game, you can’t win entirely withdefense, you have to get on the scoreboard. Being accurately quoted can score points for you, your players and the program as a whole. The goal is to be quoted accurately and often so the story has youspeaking, not someone interpreting you.Interviews can be a good source of public relations garnering new fans and building support. When thefocus is negative, typically, the best approach is to go for "the quick bleed not a slow hemorrhage". Getthe negative behind you as quickly as you can, then move on. Avoid using and never repeat negativewords or phrases. Repeating negatives reinforces them.Whether you’re facing good or bad media inquiries, one way to enhance your performance is to extendyour football focus to your media exposure. If you can map out what reporters are digging for, you candirect the interview to answer their questions while promoting your own agenda. Effectively, you’rebalancing the power! Listen well, then connect the question to what you want to say. This technique takespractice because it requires that you ignore the words of the question and focus on the idea behind them.You have the ability to reinforce themes, reword questions and give the answer you want. In televisedinterviews, remember that your demeanor and eye contact are at least as important as your words. Usestrategic pauses, gesture with impact, vary your speaking pace, and enunciate to be more dynamic and tohelp the reporter and ultimate audience better understand.Avoid misquotes at all costs. They tend to confuse the reader and portray you as something other thanwhat you are. There are several techniques that will help you to avoid being misquoted in interviews:1.Relax. Don’t stiffen up.2.Don’t be baited. If you’re under fire, don’t get frazzled, the reporter may be looking for a point of attack, don’t give him extra ammunition.3.Remember, you’re always on when dealing with the media. If you can see a microphone, cameraor a reporter’s notebook, assume your words and actions are being recorded.