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High Stakes Media Interviews

By Suzanne Spurgeon  March 8, 2021

Let's examine Megan and Harry's interview with Oprah; and what every executive can learn from it.

Talk about a high stakes interview.  As the interview was airing in the US, social media was already abuzz.  The couple wanted to tell their truths and I believe Oprah was a wise choice of interviewer.  She's no pushover, but neither did she set out to embarrass them.  Megan and Harry dropped some bombshells that appear to have earned them both empathy and ire.  I can't imagine this improves their relations with the Royal family in the short run.  But that likely was not their goal. If their goal was to have millions of people here and cross the pond, better understand their decision to step back from royal life, I believe they succeeded. 

Deciding to do any high stakes interview requires a lot of thought and preparation.  In the corporate world a CEO can make or break a company with this type of interview. If the company is in crisis this can be the beginning of the way out.  But blow the interview and a bad situation only grows worse. 

Some companies will take to social media and put out their own videotaped statement instead of sitting down with a journalist.  Others may just keep quiet and hope their crisis is quickly supplanted by someone else's trouble.  Lawyers will weigh in as well. 

If you are the executive who opts to face the media, who you talk with is as important as what you say.  We all know there are "gotcha" journalists and television hosts around.  While you try to repair your company's reputation, why put yourself in that kind of position? Do your homework and choose an interviewer who may give you a chance to explain yourself.   Other media outlets can pull sound bites or quotes from that interview.

There are some crises that are so huge and affect the public in such a great way that a news conference (even via Zoom) may be a better option.  That doesn't mean you lose all control of your massaging.  It's just harder and requires a lot of discipline.  Show your anger at a question and you risk having your true message lost.

Something to remember when dealing with the media--just because a reporter or host asks you a question doesn't mean you have to answer it.  Harry did not disclose who made racist comments about his baby.  Oprah asked as any interviewer would, but he stood his ground.  Every interview is give-and-take.


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