5 tips to ag interview success.
Between Mother Nature and her annual revolt of hurricanes, fires and floods, the politics of tariffs, an ongoing trade war, the regular flow of activism press both for and against GMOs, and other issues in rotation, ag is steadily in the news cycle. Add to this the occasional crisis and there is pressure to remain calm, dignified and well-spoken in uncertain and sometimes hostile situations.
Being fully prepared, understanding how the media functions and how to navigate its structures will result in a higher quality interview, a clearer message and the best representation of your brand, company or organization.
Below are five tips for ag professionals to provide primary engagement with the media and for the most prepared interview experience.
1. Do your homework
When meeting with a media outlet, be they traditional or digital, it’s critical to know everything possible about that outlet. Ensure that you understand their format, the scope and size of their audience, and the purpose of your interview. You should send a press kit of your brand or organization ahead of time and have clear messages prepared on their behalf. You should also have a distinct plan for the type of media coverage that you are seeking and the expectations that go along with that, particularly for digital media. Finally, for any crisis situation, have a strategy mapped out and how you are intending to address it.
2. Know your goals
Many, if not all media outlets, will edit when an interview turns into a sales pitch. Therefore, you should enter your interview with information, tactics and tips to discuss how your brand, company or organization fits into the context of ag and current ag news and issues. Include the three S’s: stories, statistics and sources, all of which build credibility. Your expertise should also be matched with your region and the media reflective of both.
3. Prepare physically and emotionally
Interviews can raise emotions, regardless of if they are in front of a camera or audience. Therefore, as Virtual Speech recommends, plan as much as possible prior to the interview by obtaining the interviewer’s expectations and practicing answering questions. This includes understanding the proper body language, eye contact, posture and how to sit still. Confirm the appropriate attire and jewelry to avoid any distractions on camera with lighting and sound. Finally, remember that for any medium, your image is the representation and it must be trustworthy.
4. The Q and A
The goal of the interview is to create an authentic discussion in an environment that most reflects the reason for the interview. For example, a conversation about a new pesticide should be conducted outside and surrounded by crops instead of in an office or a lab. Similarly, in an ideal situation, you have had an opportunity to review all questions and subjects of discussion prior to the interview, but that’s not always the case. Therefore, be sure to focus the discussion on what you are prepared to answer, and heed caution with giving out too much information. You will otherwise be edited, and your message runs the risk of being misconstrued. That said, avoid yes/no answers, respond in complete sentences and provide details by telling stories and giving examples.
Interviews are about building trust and credibility, especially in the current media environment. If you’re unsure about an answer, it’s okay to say so and to offer to provide more information at a later date. This is more effective than “no comment” or giving false or inaccurate information. You will be faced with “gotcha” questions, intended to catch you off guard and challenge your expertise. Rephrase these into positive, affirmative statements that confirm your authority on the subject.
5. After the Interview
At the conclusion of the interview, you may be asked to provide sources and references for the purpose of fact-checking. This is standard practice with every media outlet and confirms your reliability. Similarly, it is appropriate to offer thanks for having the opportunity to participate and to be available for follow-up questions.
From natural disasters and personnel situations to company mergers and new product releases, media training is always a necessity in ag. If you have any questions or concerns about facilitating the process, consider hiring a public relations consultant or agency for formal media training and a better understanding of interview savviness in this ever-changing media landscape.