The technique - evolved from media training hundreds of people - is so far ahead of any other that I call it the magic ingredient for success in a tough interview.
But before we get to it (this is important) it won't work unless you're ready with key messages that anticipate and answer the tough questions. And you must believe your own message. If you don't, no technique will help you unless you have an Oscar on the mantelpiece.
A powerful technique for any media interview
Okay. First the basic technique, which works for any interview, easy or tough.
Be earnest. Make your desire to be understood obvious. Look and sound keen to be there, keen to explain, using tone, body language and (if face-to-face) eyes.
Yes, earnestness involves passion, but it has an extra nuance to it. Earnestness is way better at connecting you with the audience. You're not just keen to be understood, you show your keenness: I want you to get this! You don't just believe your own message, you show your belief: I believe what I'm saying! You don't just assume you'll be understood, your eyes seek confirmation from the reporter: Are you getting this? Earnestness has nothing to do with the content of your key message, and everything to do with your instant appeal to the subconscious.
Of course, you don't say any of that. It's all in your manner and tone.
When the going gets tough
Now, let's apply that to a tough interview. The tougher the question, the more earnest you become. Scale your earnestness up and down to match the emotional level of the question.
Practise in a mirror. Choose a topic, talk about it, but above all set out to convince your reflection non-verbally. Your eyebrows will rise, horizontal wrinkles will appear on your forehead. (That's a good thing. Cancel the botox appointment!) Your hands and head will move more emphatically saying I want you to get this even while your eyes are inquiring, Are you getting this?
On the phone to a reporter, it's still the same except for the eyes. Walk around with the phone to ear, look into the distance (perhaps through the window), gesticulate, get emphatic with hands and arms and head.
It's subtle. It's powerful.
Being earnest is better than appearing calm and dignified
Really? Can that be correct?
Yes it is. When my media trainees try this method, the most common responses from other trainees are, 'You look more believable' and 'You made me take notice'.
Calm and dignified does not cope with emotional accusing tones
Don't listen to media trainers who tell you that you must stay calm and dignified to make the aggressive reporter look hysterical. It sounds like plausible advice, but it just doesn't work. In fact it will make you look as if you don't have the courage of your convictions. Your media audience needs to see your emotional investment - controlled emotional investment - in your own argument.
Still feel cautious? I can't blame you, because what I've described may be nudging your threshold of comfort. Maybe it sounds risky, as if it might turn you into a show pony. In that case, practise it first on someone you trust to be honest.
A final thought. Earnestness also impresses a live audience. The tougher the audience, the more earnest you become.
Have fun out there.
Michael Brown is the author of seven books including: Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority (now in edition four) and Speaking Easy: engage your audiences with confidence and authority (now in edition five). For the philosophy behind his methods, read Finding the Field: an adventure of body, mind and spirit.