Media Interview Lessons From the Presidential Debates
With the Presidential debates now behind us and the election imminent, Americans can make two conclusions:
- On November 6th, either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be elected President of the United States.
- Those two men don’t really seem to like each other.
No, this isn’t based on the political ads that have seemingly invaded our television and internet space. You can pretty much tell how they feel about each other based on their body language and the way they carried themselves in television interviews and during the debates.
Most of us will likely never run for president, but there is a good chance you could get a media interview in hopes of promoting your business – which is essentially what the candidates were doing. What the candidates also did during these debates was show us just how important body language is to public relations and media interviews.
We got on this topic at Tech Image because I made a comment that I worked as a reporter during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses and had an opportunity to interview both President Obama and Governor Romney and people wanted to know what they were like. Both appeared to be very nice, intelligent men who want to do what they think is best for the country. They also were both a lot like they appeared on television.
Even if I hadn’t known who Governor Romney was, I would have known he was a business leader – he approached the interview with confidence and a purpose. Then-senator Obama had a very thoughtful, professorial delivery, something I summed up to being a combination of his former career as a college instructor and his wanting to prove to people that, despite his youth, he was ready for the presidency. Obviously, a lot has changed for the two men in the last four years, but their body language and media interview behavior appears to be very much the same.
Those were just my observations, but body language experts have spent a lot of time breaking down the debates and mannerisms in general. The things the two did well, they appeared to do very well and it could end up determining who gets the job. It is also something we can emulate when trying to sell ourselves in public relations – specifically in media interviews.
3 Tips For a Good Media Interview
- Maintain eye contact: The eye contact of the candidates gave a lot away, and it affected a lot of people’s perceptions of President Obama in general. He was highly criticized in the first debate for seeming distracted and looking at the podium. This expressed a real sense of disinterest – not something you want to do when you’re trying to sell your product, in his case another four years.
- Check your posture: The first two debates allowed the candidates to stand up and if you watched closely, you could see a real change in posture when they felt they were talking about something they knew. Some of this is instinctual, but some of it can be taught. Listen to your mom, she was right – stand up straight! It is a key to expressing or faking confidence.
- Nod appropriately: The president was highly criticized for nodding during the first debate and nodding is one of those tricky body language issues. When one agrees, is he or she doing so in agreement or to acknowledge listening? The president was likely listening and not agreeing with the viewpoints of his opponent, but it didn’t come off that way. While one would want to appear to be agreeable when in a media interview, body language experts say nodding a lot gives off an impression of not being confident or not possessing leadership qualities. When you’re being interviewed, you want to be confident in what you’re saying and nodding along, like the president did, does not always convey that message.
There are a million ways one could have interpreted the debate, and countless experts have tried. Like I said, none of us will probably ever have a stage quite like the two candidates did during the debates, but we may have a chance to do an in-person media interview while doing public relations. If there’s anything we learned from the debates it’s that body language is just as important as the words we say.
Do you have an experience where body language positively or negatively impacted a message your organization wanted to convey? Share your comments below!