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Using the 3 “P” method to prepare for a media interview

Tips for presenting yourself and your message effectively

By Robyn K. Thompson, CFP, CIM, FCSI
President, Castlemark Wealth Management Inc.

Because of their expertise and experience, licensed financial professionals are often called upon by media channels – from online videoblogs to full-blown broadcast television – to comment, explain, or present specific financial planning and wealth management issues that are at the top of the daily news cycle. For example, CERB, CESB, EI, retirement planning, and household debt are just some of the topics I have commented on in recent media spots.

For many, sitting down in a studio in front of bright lights, cameras, production crew, and a polished, high-profile host or news anchor can seem downright terrifying. It need not be. In fact, media visibility can be a great way to gain market visibility for your practice and to get your message across effectively to a wide audience.

Here is the three “P” method to make the most of your media appearance.

  1. Prepare. As financial advisors, we’re in the people business. The tendency is to think that because we can speak easily and at length to clients, we can do the same at a media interview. But when the countdown ends, the lights come on, and the camera rolls, you might just be caught like a deer in the headlights – your mind gone blank.

The only antidote to this is to be fully prepared with answers to scripted questions and be fully briefed with background material for questions that might not be pre-arranged or might need more explanation. This happens often, prepare for the unexpected! The same goes for voice-only interviews (radio, for example). I personally write out my answers to scripted questions before I ever appear on camera and I always know my material.

Develop your key messages and refine them to the classic “elevator” presentation – something you can impart in just a few seconds. Your background preparation will serve as a place to draw from if you are caught off guard.

  1. Practice. Most media interviews are set up in advance by producers who will generally work with you to fashion a list of questions for the topic at hand. This gives you a great opportunity to rehearse your interview topics until you have them memorized. And do it out loud, using a webcam to record your responses. Play back the video to note areas where you can improve your appearance, body language, and presentation. Keep doing it until you get it right.
  2. Perform. During the actual interview, it’s crucial to stay calm and confident, with a relaxed but alert demeanour – even if you don’t feel that way. Keep eye contact with the interviewer, and smile whenever it’s appropriate. Turn your mobile phone off – not just “silent.”

Keep your answers concise, to the point, and avoid rambling (this is where preparation and rehearsal pay off). The interviewer or host has a very tight on-air schedule and must cover the topic as pre-arranged. Your interviewer my in fact interrupt you in mid-thought, so be prepared to jump to another question quickly. Do not interrupt or talk over the interviewer – wait until the question has been asked before jumping in with an answer. Never show anger or irritation with an interviewer.

If it’s a live broadcast interview, dress appropriately, as the camera will capture you from both wide angles and close-ups. Try to avoid fidgeting (e.g., crossing and uncrossing your legs) and waving your hands and arms about. Body language is all-important on camera – your posture, facial expressions, and movement become part of your message. Avoid putting your hands in your pockets or locking your hands in front of or behind you. In other words, sit naturally. If you must gesture, use an area in front of your body no larger than a basketball.

If you feel uncomfortable accepting a media request, but still feel that the exposure will enhance your practice, you might consider getting some media training to hone your interview presentation skills. You’ll learn the skills unique to a studio environment and become more comfortable and polished with the process when it comes down to the real thing.

© 2020 by Robyn K. Thompson. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. This article is for information only and is not intended as personal investment or financial advice.

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