I recently had to console my good friend of 25 years – a smart, A level school friend who had rarely faulted in her career since leaving high school. She had worked her way through a number of multi-nationals in the food and beverage industry. It was only in the last six months that she bravely decided that she was ready to take the giant leap and venture out on her own. My friend rapidly developed a reputation for being a leader of the future, a shining light in the tough food industry. Right now, however, she felt her reputation was in tatters after a TV interview went horribly wrong.

Her agony over this disastrous TV interview was, by her own admission, completely her fault because she didn’t do her homework. She assumed she was going to be interviewed on her views on the future trends of the F&B industry for a public affairs programme. She assumed wrongly. The story was actually on the woes of the industry and how fractious it had become in recent years. My friend was about to take centre stage in a story she did not want to be associated with.

In dissecting her first TV news interview experience, here are the three areas that crushed her confidence:

  1. In her first contact with the journalist, she didn’t ask for details of the subject matter and why they wanted her to be a part of this story. She only asked this when the journalist turned up for the interview. The journalist answered her honestly, but by then it was too late for my friend to pull out of the interview.
  2. She didn’t prepare her three key messages. Instead she had memorised the detailed history of the industry in that particular market. Journalists don’t want a long-winded history lesson – they want 10-second grabs or quotable quotes to make their story sound interesting.
  3. She didn’t ask who else was being interviewed for the story. It turned out there was a group of disgruntled former employees of her old company who contacted the media with this story. Again, she asked this question of the journalist too late. At least if she’d known well in advance who else was going to be part of the story, she may have prepared her answers differently.

Yes, my friend learned some tough lessons that day. Sadly, she was spooked to the point of never wanting to be in front of a microphone ever again. But that will change. Fortunately I’ve convinced her to invest some time (with her good mate) in learning how to be media savvy.

If it was you who received that initial phone call – what would you have done? Would you have been media ready?