Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” As public relations professionals, we know how important it is to be prepared – whether it be for a crisis or morning show segment. It’s our job to make sure our clients’ messages are conveyed clearly, consistently and concisely. Training prior to a speaking engagement is just one of the many tools PR practitioners can utilize to prepare their clients. However, no matter how prepared your client is or how thorough your materials are, there are times when interviews and press conferences go awry. Take a look at a few of these situations to see what went wrong and what we can learn from each:
Children interrupt BBC News interview – BBC News
Video calls or interviews have become quite common. However, while you may be able to engage in these from the comfort of your own home, it’s still important to prep as intensively as you would for an in-person interview. Check out this now viral video of Professor Robert Kelly.
At first, Kelly seems to be physically prepared for the discussion – his background isn’t extremely distracting, he’s dressed appropriately from the waist up and he seems to be hitting his talking points with ease. However, Kelly is (hilariously) interrupted by his two young children and then his wife, who is scrambling to remove them. Props to Kelly for handling this situation with grace and laughter – even though it could have easily been avoided. When preparing for a video interview, it’s crucial to be aware of your surroundings. Also, be sure to choose a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed.
Freedom Industries President speaks to reporters – WCHS & WVAH TV
Crisis situations are never easy, but with preparation and training, a PR pro can help navigate you through rough waters. Lack of training, however, is easy to spot and can make for a disastrous interview, which only aggravates the people you were trying to appease with your statement.
In 2014, Freedom Industries was responsible for a chemical spill that contaminated water in nine counties in West Virginia. Company president Gary Southern was tasked with making a statement. Here’s an abbreviated version of the interview.
There are a number of things wrong with this short clip, but the No. 1 issue is that Southern is drinking water while he’s supposed to be apologizing for his company’s part in contaminating the water. This action, while presumably unintentional, comes off insensitive as he complains about having a long day. Be mindful of the way you present yourself in interviews. Actions often speak louder than words – and this clip is the perfect example.
Memphis coach David Fizdale rants to the press – Damo TV
After a 96-82 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, former coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, David Fizdale, sat down to speak to the press after the game. You can watch the full press conference here.
Fizdale was noticeably aggravated (take note of his closed-off body language) but remained composed during the beginning of the press conference. However, halfway through, Fizdale begins reading stats off a notecard, comparing both teams’ performance along with complaining about the game’s officiating. This is when we see Fizdale lose his composure, resulting in a phrase that Grizzlies’ fans adopted as a mantra throughout the rest of that year’s playoff season: “Take that for data!”
Fizdale’s outburst and criticism of the game’s referees resulted in a $30,000 fine from the NBA. Even though Fizdale had accurate statistics and was, some might say, justified in his frustration, a press conference is not the time or place to rant or blame others. This goes to show how important it is to keep calm, manage your message and engage in proper eye contact and body language.
Cara Delevingne Talks About ‘Paper Towns’ – CBS Sacramento
In 2015, Cara Delevingne starred in the silver screen adaptation of the best-selling book “Paper Towns” by John Green. Cara is seen here appearing on Good Day in Sacramento, Calif., promoting her role in the movie in an interview that, to be honest, couldn’t have gone worse. Take a look for yourself.
Now, after watching that painful interaction, if you could even make it through the whole video, I’m sure you’re just as uncomfortable as I am. To sum it up, the main problem with this interview is that both sides never reached an understanding. Both the interviewers and the interviewee thought the other was being rude due to lack of communication on both parts. Here are a few tips to make sure your next interview goes smoothly:
- Be prepared – After watching this a few times, I realized that one of the hosts accidentally called Cara by “Carla” right as the interview began. Everyone makes mistakes, but as a morning show host, it goes without saying that it’s your job to have all the facts…and your guest’s correct name.
- Be aware – Throughout the interview, Cara appears to be uninterested by scanning around the room and uncomfortably shifting her body weight. Be conscious of your body language. If you’re saying one thing, but your body language is saying another, your message may not be received the way you intended. On another note, in my opinion, Cara should have picked up that the interviewers weren’t catching or understanding her humor and changed the way she was answering their questions.
- Be respectful – The hosts made a few unsettling comments once they felt they weren’t getting what they deserved out of the interview, asking Cara if she needed to take a nap or drink a Redbull to pep up. After the interview came to an abrupt end, they continued to talk about her, even flashing an unflattering photo from the interview with cat noises to demonstrate how they perceived her attitude. Even if you feel disrespected when conducting an interview or press conference, it’s important to stay professional.
In conclusion, with the proper training, your next interview or press conference will go swimmingly. Knowing your message, executing it intentionally and interacting professionally with the media or interviewer are key tips to ensuring its success. As public relations professionals, it’s our job to give you the materials and tools necessary to adequately do so to avoid situations like those you watched and read about above.