Listening is an underrated skill, and one I wish that my C-level clients would take more seriously. I recently completed a series of media interviews with a new client and, as with most clients I have worked with over the last 20 years, these executives are too busy trying to cram information down a reporter’s throat to stop, listen, engage, and learn more about what they are interested in.
Of course, you are trying to get the point across for a new services or product and make sure the reporter knows why it’s valuable. You want to deliver your three key message points. But the objective is not to deliver death by PowerPoint. It’s to create a connection with the reporter so you make an ally, not just deliver message points. Which is why I want to share a recent blog post from my client, NETSHARE, on listening strategies. The NETSHARE blog is talking about harnessing listening skills for a job interview, but the same skills apply for press interviews as well. If you listen closely, you are in control of the interview. Here are the highlights:
- Commit to improving your listening skills. You need to learn to listen, so it takes practice.
- Stop pitching and start listening. Every executive in an interview is selling a story about his company and its products. Try listening instead of pitching. Let reporters ask questions and dig for insights and address the questions, not your key messages.
- Give the reporter your undivided attention. Whether you are in an interview or talking to a friend, they deserve your undivided attention. So take them off the speaker phone, put away the computer, and shut off outside distractions.
- Be objective. Don’t be quick to challenge or share your own ideas. Listen to the reporter and offer a well-reasoned response.
- Apply empathy. Try to see the other party’s point of view. Put yourself in their shoes and try to find common ground.
- Be respectful. Wait for the other party to stop talking before offering a counterpoint. Also remember that if you are formulating your response while the other party is speaking, you are not listening.
- Paraphrase what has just been said to make sure you have heard correctly.
- Notes are valuable. They can help you reinforce and remember salient points.
- When you are being interviewed, look at how the other party poses the questions. Are they loud? Do they talk fast? What words do they use? If you can tun3e in to tone and body language you can determine mood and feeling, which can help you take control of the interview.
- Look at body language. Are there non-verbal signs that tell you what the interviewer is thinking? See if they make eye contact. Do they turn away from you? Are they avoiding direct interaction? If so, then you have a hostile interviewer. But if they are direct and look you in the eye, they are ready to engage and more amenable.
To take charge of an interview you need to take the time to listen and engage with the reporter. Don’t be so quick to promote your own story. Listen to what the reporter needs and help him build his story. You will get more from the interview that way, and so will the reporter.