When you’re looking down the barrel of a mic (or a pen) and a reporter is on the other end, you’d better be ready. I’m not going to mince my words at all when I tell you it is exceptionally easy to blow an interview.
Since starting my work in the energy efficiency industry, I’ve been interviewed for pieces in industry newsletters, the Wall Street Journal and everything in between. My ability to provide succinct sound bites and quick quotes is not a natural talent, but one I honed through a number of embarrassing, easily preventable events that you never need to endure.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and, while I have many maxims regarding the subject, the story behind my First Maxim of Media Relations is really too good to keep to myself…
In 2002, I was interviewed by the ever-lovely Xtine for her magazine, In Theory. Neither of us had actually done an interview before, and what happened was nothing less than punk f***ing rock. (click here to download the PDF)
At the time, I was working in the editorial department at Orlando Weekly as the calendar girl, spending the remainder of my extracurricular hours as a DJ and live show producer for my college radio station. Never a wallflower, I was not one to maintain a “professional” demeanor either at work or play…which is probably why I was immediately forced to learn my First Maxim of Media Relations:
No matter how much fun you’re having, don’t forget you’re giving an interview.
This WILL go down on your permanent record. You don’t have to be stuffy, but I strongly suggest you stay away from responses like “don’t take it in the ass” unless you are absolutely certain you won’t mind that showing up in print. Also…
Do not make jokes about fellatio when discussing how you landed your current job. Even if your bosses are a gay man and a woman.
The day after it came out, the head editors called me into their office to discuss the article and I was unofficially reprimanded. Thank goodness I worked at a newsweekly with a sense of humor and wasn’t fired for this. I could have been, but really, it never occurred to me that she would print that.
I forgot I was being interviewed and said something that could not translate without inflection or facial expressions. Bad, bad move…
Having since been an interviewer as well as the interviewee, I must warn you that many writers are (*gasp!*) personable individuals. They engage for a living, so it should come as no surprise when it happens while they’re asking questions. No matter what, you must always remember your conversation is part of the interview and respond accordingly.
(note: I do realize that I’m letting you all read something you’d never, ever have known existed, but figured mere reference simply wouldn’t transfer my message quite as clearly.)
Xtine and I were later crowned Princesses of Punk at the Orlando Punk Awards, so it wasn’t even close to a loss. In fact, as my first interview ever, I’d say it was one of the coolest things I did during that era. I can assure you I haven’t done anything like it since…
Except for the part about Tony Danza. I still sing the wrong words to that song because it’s funny. And because I really do want him to hold me closer… Really… who doesn’t?!