What Not To Say in a Press Interview – a loose behavioral framework

Oh no! An interview

Some of us hate talking to the press. We don’t like our words being twisted, or we’re afraid we’ll sound stupid. But in some ways, it’s like going on a date– sometimes the nerves come from not being comfortable answering questions about ourselves, much less any tough questions we aren’t ready for!

As with dating- most of how you feel about it has more to do with yourself than the other party. If you’re looking forward to having a good time, you’ll have more of fulfilling that prophecy; same with the flip side. So, don’t go into a press interview viewing it as a negative thing. Don’t dread it. It’s actually a great platform to talk about your accomplishments.

It’s all in your perception!

Perhaps you can think of it this way: you’ve been away from home for 10 years and are finally returning to visit your family at a gathering. They’re going to ask you all sorts of questions, and you’ll have the occasional cynical relative who is out to put you down and make you feel ashamed. But overwhelmingly, they want to hear the highlights of what you’ve accomplished and what you’ve been up to over the years, ups and downs. As these are recountings and tales (and not a trip to your therapist…  you will *not* lay it on thick too much too soon, TMI!), you’ll craft your stories in a way even your younger relatives would be entertained by. I’m not saying you can only talk about the good- that’s unrealistic, but there’s a way you can frame talking about your struggles without sinking the ship and dragging all the innocent passengers down with you.

The Approach

You dont walk into a blind date and talk about yourself in a belittling way. at the same time you would never brag on and on about yourself. the most confident people speak modestly- and when people are intrigued by your choice of modest words, they will ask you for specifics. When you are asked about who your star clients are- you have every right to give an a-list. that’s your time to sell yourself.

Do not: (ahh, car crash!)

But you will never namedrop unnecessary pat-yourself-on-the-back descriptors of yourself in an interview:

“i think im very unique”
“i think im very special”
“People like myself…”
“As a unique person, I approach things…”
“I think I’m very talented..”

Nor will you say unnecessary damaging or incriminating things about yourself [this is not therapy!]:

“..and then I cut him out of the deal, but I haven’t told him yet.”
“We haven’t paid our designers yet, we need the money to fund the bar we want to open up”
“Yeah, I stole her concept- but hey, I’m more famous so people will think I did it first!”
“I am lost in life”
“I’m suicidal”
“I really don’t know what I’m doing…”
“I have low self esteem. I don’t think I’m very attractive..”
“I’m really a fashion outsider” [stop patting yourself on the back!!]
“People don’t understand me” [@_@]
“The rest of people in fashion don’t understand me, but you do” [@_#]
“My body of work is commercial, and then its weird /strange /crazy” [strange? no back patting. if you MUST, you can say “people have told me they find my work strange” but thats as far as you can go!] [you CAN talk about yourself in those terms if you like, but it must be in humor and humble: my friends think im peculiar.. or maybe even crazy!”]

A Question & Answer example of what not to say

Q: What makes your work different?
A: “Well.. you know it’s because I’m very special. I’m influenced by the world around me, and so you know.. I take from that influence and i put it into my work. I think the way I design is very unique.. because I’m looking at how the hat will fit on the customer! Do I like to sell? Well, I’m not really focused on the business side of things. It’s because I’m too crazy and weird, and I’m such a hermit! I don’t really like working with other people… but really, I think it’s because that’s the artist in me. I’m creative!”
**compilation of worst answers ever, and lamest lines clients used on me as ‘rationale’ for their behavior. Do not do these!

Conclusion

Always think of new press/interviews as eulogies: How do you want to be remembered? If someone you are friends with interviews you in a more casual manner, sure you can let the professional tone down a bit, add in some more spark and enjoy! But even then, it’s up to the interviewer to probe into deeper questions.

About Steven Chu


Hi, I'm Steven! I'm an entrepreneur, photographer and art director in New York. Follow this blog for self expression, fun, and most importantly: looking comfortable, at ease, and amazing in your photos no matter who takes them! I dedicate this to my amazing friends who have let me inadvertently turn all of our hangouts and travel photos into a never ending photoshoot of fun. The proof is in the pudding-- our photos rock. My other projects: I'm the founder of InstaTechie.com, a face-to-face tech concierge service for NYC. Book a techie to walk you through something you want to learn! My work focuses on socially engaged art projects which use technology to create access to resources for communities. Visit Steven Chu Studio (stevenchustudio.com) for branding & design work or Steven Chu (stevenchu.com) for photography projects.

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