10 tips for a successful first interview (Part 1)

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Be innovative: journalists like people who don’t use quotes they hear every day (Photo by Graphic Leftovers)

After blogging about the things everyone should know prior to his/her first real interview, now it’s time to move to the real thing – the interview itself. Although you may end up meeting all kinds of journalists, you should have in mind that a professional journalist’s main job is to present news (facts) to the public in a fair, balanced and truthful manner. Here are ten tips (divided into 2 parts – the second one to follow) about how to make his job easier and how to present yourself in the best way possible.

1. The journalist

First and foremost: never expect to get paid for an interview. Take it as an honour and a potential opportunity to gain financial reward elsewhere. There are only a handful of people in the whole world (the biggest celebrities) that get paid for interviews. Asking for something in return for an interview can have a damaging effect: can you imagine the headline: “Young prospect has lost it: 17-year old wants money for an interview”?

Keep in mind that journalists can be good (they mostly are) and bad, but do try to have an open mind. People can be different from what other people tell you about them. Be polite and treat the journalist as your best customer. Don’t be late, don’t make up excuses and lie! Things might come back and haunt you later.

2. Remember that you are talking to the public

It may be hard to imagine, but the journalist is only the first person of many who will hear/read/see your story in the media. You may not like him or he may not like you, but in the end what comes out is a piece of news that involves both of you. And both of you have a clear goal: his is to complete his assignment and receive his wage, while yours is to present yourself to the public. Remember that there are no bad questions, only terrible answers. You have the chance to speak about something else than what you are asked about. If you have something interesting to say, mention it even if the question is about something totally different. Some journalists, sadly, don’t have a lot of imagination, so you may end up being asked about silly things over and over again.

3. Keep away from quotes everyone uses

Try to be innovative with your answers, although it is not always easy. Journalists like people who don’t use quotes they hear every day (and vice versa). Throw in a joke or an anecdote if you are good at it – but don’t try to be funny if you’re not. Especially if you are interviewed directly after a game it may be hard to think of something really good, but when you have the time – do your homework. Nobody really reads (and wants to make) interviews with players who repeatedly blast out the most worn out phrases in the world. Nobody likes to hear about a bad game, but being sincere with the public is usually much better than being ignorant by saying: “We gave it our best, but they won.” Do not go too far – it is easy to offend somebody when your head is hot.

4. Ask before being asked

It may be helpful to know what the interview is about – although it may be very obvious. Ask the journalist how he imagined his piece. You may be able to help him, guide him to an even better story if you see from the very start that he really doesn’t have a good idea in mind. It is also good to know when and how your interview will be published. It may be obvious, but if it isn’t – ask. If the interview is about something you don’t feel comfortable talking about, tell this to the journalist. If you have a good reason for it, he will understand.

5. Come dressed for the occasion

It may not seem important to you at first, but remember – a picture tells a thousand words. Come dressed for the occasion! Choose your clothes depending on the interview: think about what kind of audience it is, where the interview will be held … It may happen that there will be no camera involved, but it is still better to be prepared. There is nothing worse than refusing to be pictured/filmed. Saying “no” to pictures during an interview is almost like saying “no” to the interview itself. It is never bad to look good, right?

Coming up in part 2: When the recording machine is on …

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