The Art and Science of “Good Interviews”

Recently, Version 2.0 co-founder and partner Jean Serra recently sat down with our resident media and presentation skills specialist, Elise Simard, to chat about why media training should be considered more than a “one and done” executive training session.

Jean: Elise, a lot of executives have been through formal media training workshops in the past (in business school, at prior companies, etc.). Having heard about “headlining,” “bridging” and other techniques, they wonder why another media training session is worth the time and money. What do you tell them?

Elise: A company spokesperson is like a product. You don’t just launch it into the market and let it sit there unchanged and untouched for years. Instead, you invest the time and energy to tweak, improve, and enhance the product with future releases to ensure it meets the needs of its key audiences. It is the same with a corporate spokesperson. New messaging emerges, new markets and categories are pursued, and new media outlets and influencers become mission-critical to brand building. Therefore, it’s important that a company and its executives dedicate the time to continuously improve their storytelling skills.

Jean: What makes your approach to media and presentation training unique or different from what executives might have gone through in the past?

Elise: My goal when designing the session is for the attendees to have fun and get a lot of value out of our time together. At V2, we take a message- and context-driven approach to media training. So, while you learn a lot of great techniques and best practices for interviewing, you are also fine-tuning your message and crafting audience-specific sound bites.

Jean: Can one media training session serve all purposes? In other words, how much does a spokesperson’s approach change for print, broadcast or a speaking engagement?

Elise: Message clarity is critical, and our goal is to make sure that your listener is engaged and excited about your story and views the spokesperson as an expert and thought leader. But certainly, the format or venue plays a huge role in how a spokesperson should prepare and conduct him/herself. A presentation at a conference or event, which is the format most executives are used to and comfortable with, is very different than an interview. A journalist is looking for information, not a speech or conversation. While an interview is a transactional exchange, there is also a way to powerfully deliver your story in the session. If you aren’t practiced and prepared to adjust your style, you can miss a great opportunity to build your own and your company’s brand.

Jean: Elise, as someone who helps speakers go from good to great every day, who do you look at as a great interviewee?

Elise: A few of my favorites include:

  • Marc Benioff from Salesforce. He is consistent in his interview style — he is conversational, he stays on message, he paces his answers well and he uses simple visual language.
  • Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook strikes a great balance using emotion in her delivery and backing up her messages with statistics and research. She makes her point quickly and bridges back to her message quickly. She fully engages in the interview – using her voice and facial expressions and a conversational inflection.
  • And, this interview with Apple’s Tim Cook about mounting pressure for Apple to unlock Syed Farook’s iPhone. It is a great example of an executive dealing with a difficult issue and responding to complex questions. Cook strikes the right balance of emotion and sympathy, and does not get defensive or argumentative. Muir asks the same or similar questions in different ways throughout the interview, clearly trying to get a different answer, but Cook stays on message. From a technical standpoint, this video also shows the sometimes-awkward dynamic in a broadcast interview – Muir breaking eye contact to read his notes — Cook stays composed and laser-focused on the interviewer awaiting the next question.

Jean: Final parting words, what is your advice to executives who are tasked with telling their brand story to external audiences and press?

Elise: No matter how well you know the company or product, how comfortable you are speaking publicly, how much past media work you’ve done, it’s your job to be poised and ready to make the most of every opportunity and practice is key. Giving a great interview is an art. And the people who are skilled at it – you know, the executives who are so compelling to watch or read about– they invest a ton of time working to make themselves better.

Visit here to learn more about Elise’s background and here to learn more about Version 2.0’s media and presentation workshops.


October 7, 2019


By Jean Serra


Media Training