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Being Smart vs. Sounding Smart in a Media Interview

29 November 2012 4 Comments

Why interviews are less about what you know and more about how you present yourself.

Years ago, I sat in on a media training session in while I was a working at Burson-Marsteller in New York City. The client was the head of mergers and acquisitions for a Wall Street investment bank. He was handsome, clever, and as confident as one would expect. The coaching was intended to help him handle media interviews and analysts’ calls with ease. It should have been a no-brainer. But about an hour into the session, after stumbling over some basic questions, he grew visibly less sure of himself. What had made the exercise so daunting?

It turns out my Wall Streeter isn’t the only one with this problem. (Remember election 2012 and Mitt Romney.) What I discovered is that people don’t lose their smarts during interviews, they lose themselves. When that happens, they become self-conscious, sometimes disastrously so. That’s because interviews are less about what you know and more about how you present yourself. They reveal character, which is why audiences enjoy them.

In the public spotlight or behind closed doors, interviews can make or break a career. In the heat of the moment, we forget what we should say or we reveal too much. Sometimes we even answer questions no one asked.

No one asked Mitt Romney if people are corporations or if he liked to fire people. You get the point. Every on the record interview is a defining moment. Unless you learn how to cultivate the editor in your head, you’re likely to confuse what you’re thinking with what you should be saying. A media coach gets inside your head to help you articulate your best thinking when asked.

 The Art of talking Back, a blog and a state of mind for going on the record.


  • Mariam said:

    i love the sarcasm. haha.@Dean I hope you enjoy the wrgtinis. Let me know some of your thoughts. It was great to talk music with you last night at the meeting.@Eliza I love you too.

  • Tall Paul said:

    Being in the public eye as an elected official and being in a “people business”, I became well aware of how I should present myself in any interview – especially with the media! That means not talking too much and “knowing your stuff” before you go into one.

    This is an excellent reminder of the benefits of being polished, looking good and doing one’s homework before stepping into the spotlight rather than the other stuff (LOL).

    Love your web-site Bodine. Keep up the great work!


  • Pete Lazuer said:

    Mitt Romney for one just didn’t have anything to say except, I’m rich, I made a lot of money, most people are takers etc. Is there any wonder he lost. What I can’t figure out is how he made his money given his tendency to annoy….

    P. Lazuer

  • francoise boureau said:

    After Romney we know that these Wall Streeters are not that a-r-t-i-c-u-l-a-t-e anyway. I enjoy your perspective on language.

    F. Boureau