The world as we know is a world constructed by the media, so it is very important for every athlete – especially an emerging one – to know how to build on his media image. Being successful in public appearances can improve a player’s rating; just like bad media exposure can badly damage it. Which are the basic things everybody should know when faced with their very first interview?
It can all happen very quickly: sometimes it only takes one goal, assist or even just one magical touch of the ball to be noticed by somebody. It doesn’t need to be the biggest national newspaper – a good first step is if you are recognized inside your local community. But even if the first interview is not something you might consider a “big thing” – think again. It may well be the piece of text every journalist, you talked to during your career, will read when searching for interesting data about you.
1. Be prepared
As previously stated, media attention usually comes with a reason. That means that a journalist will almost surely contact you after you have done something out of the ordinary. It doesn’t mean it was a good thing, but – luckily – in sport it mostly is. So when this rare, but golden opportunity comes, try to make the best of it. Before the interview (especially when you have enough time), think hard about the things you have always wanted to tell the world around you, but didn’t get the chance. Now is your time! Try to say something interesting to the public. Maybe make a list of the things (either literally or at least in your head) you would like to say on the interview – so that your words will make sense.
2. Don’t get over excited
Keep calm. Most likely your first interview will not be a big one, so this is not something to lose your head over it. It is nice to imagine yourself in the media – a lot of people dream about it – but it is really not that special. You are not a celebrity once you are asked for your first interview. It should just be a small sign that you are on a good way. Know that there is still a long way to go!
3. Be cooperative and keep your promises
Do your best to be cooperative with the journalist when arranging the interview (if it is not directly after a game) and do not turn up late or not answer the phone at the arranged time. If you really can’t make it (for any reason), let the journalist know. Sending a text is OK, but a call is even better. If you have a good reason, it really shouldn’t be a problem. But don’t expect for a third chance after you skipped the first two appointments without a good reason …
4. Everybody makes (grammar) mistakes
A lot of people are very afraid of making grammar mistakes when speaking to a journalist. Don’t worry! Odds are you will not be speaking “live”, so everything can be repeated over and over (in case of and audio or video interview) if you like. When giving an interview to the press, the journalist will correct your grammar mistakes himself. Everybody makes those kind of mistakes and nobody knows that better than the journalists.
5. And the most important thing …
Just take it easy and be yourself. That is what journalists (and the audience) like.
6. Listen to the journalist/reporter
It is important to listen to what the journalist is telling you and asking you. If there is something you don’t understand – ask for an explanation. Like everybody else, journalists can make mistakes, but only the best ones will admit them and do their best to correct them. If you will listen to the journalist and know exactly what the journalist would like to ask you, you have a much better chance to answer properly.
7. Get to the point
Don’t talk too much! It can be hard to answer a question shortly, but try not to take it into extremes. Especially if you are talking for the radio or TV, you will need to get to the point straight away … If your answers are too long, you are taking a great risk of getting edited and the final outcome might be a surprise – in most cases, it is an unpleasant one. Remember: if you forget something important, a good journalist will ask you that later! But still: don’t forget something that you want to tell the journalist and that he doesn’t know about.
8. Don’t take it personally
When the questions start flowing, there is no way back …
It may happen that you will be asked unpleasant questions. But you must answer them and know that the journalist probably asked them because the public wants to know your answer. “No comment” is the best answer if you really don’t want to reply. That is the best thing to do when you are faced with a question you don’t want to answer or where it is best not to answer. Personal things should remain personal. There are things you should discuss outside the media – refuse to answer or say that you may comment on it later if you are not sure what to do. The journalist should and will understand.
9. It’s his/her job!
Things may distract you when talking to a journalist, but remember that a good journalist does a lot of things during an interview because he doesn’t want to leave anything to chance. Taking or checking notes (even on his telephone – although there is a slight chance he got a text or is updating his Twitter account), checking on technical equipment or looking at this watch … it’s all part of his job! So don’t worry if you loose eye contact for a while. It is important that you don’t have feeling that the journalist is somewhere else.
10. Be helpful even when the interview is over
It may be over for you, but the real work for the journalist has only started … He will have to retype and arrange your answers into the format you will later see in the media. He may need additional help with such things as clarification of names, figures and events. Be ready to help if the journalist calls for additional information. There may be vital parts of the story missing and it is crucial that you give it to the journalist. If you get a call, text or even an e-mail: answer! In the end, it is for your own good.
Before we finish …
Remember: it is all about making a good impression and making sure that this is not your first AND last interview. Of course it has a lot to do with your on-the-pitch performances, but a good media image can really boost your rating among the fans and sport followers. Use your first five minutes of fame wisely – it can open a lot of doors.
Wishing you a great first interview – hopefully our tips will help!