Avoid these media-interview pitfalls

Reporters are always on the lookout for expert sources to comment on a variety of topics — and that often includes personal finance and other financial issues. Granting media interviews presents an opportunity for you to stand out in a crowded field of financial advisors.

When you deliver valuable advice to the public, you can raise your profile in the community, says Dean DiSpalatro, senior writer with Ext. Marketing Inc. in Toronto.

But too often, DiSpalatro says, advisors’ self-interest takes hold and they lose sight of the interview’s purpose, reducing the likelihood they will be called upon again.

DiSpalatro advises that you avoid the following pitfalls during a media interview:

> Don’t get stuck in platitudes
Advisors are as prone as media-trained athletes to sound as though they’re parroting a pre-packaged script, DiSpalatro says.

Avoid trite remarks like: “I do everything I can to build client trust.”

Unless you can explain how you develop trust, that statement reveals little. Interviewers — and in turn, readers — value the specifics.

“Readers come to the article to learn,” DiSpalatro says.

> Don’t be a product-pusher
The interview isn’t an invitation to make a sales pitch. A shameless plug about your firm’s latest fund or service will fall on deaf ears, and it comes across as self-serving.

You are unlikely to inspire the reporter to pivot the focus of his or her piece on what you’re selling. Leave it to your advertisements to make the case, says DiSpalatro.

For example, if the article is on portfolio construction, says DiSpalatro, “think about the best advice you can give, and that [the reader can use].”

> Don’t give an answer just for the sake of it
There’s no harm in admitting that you don’t know the answer to an interviewer’s question, DiSpalatro says. What’s worse is giving false information or taking facts out of context. That will only damage your credibility and call into question your motives.

At the same time, a question may raise compliance issues, he adds. You can always offer to schedule a follow-up interview or email a more informed response.

> Don’t follow a script
While it’s good to do some prep work ahead of time to nail down your main points, you should not sound rehearsed. You can write up an outline to follow along and help keep you on point during the interview, but treat it as a guide, says DiSpalatro.

> Don’t “bait and switch”
Sometimes, an interview can go off course and wander into tangents — and then return to the topic at hand. But the surest way to unintentionally sabotage your chances of being asked for another interview, says DiSpalatro, is to agree to speak on “X” subject and, instead, talk at length about “Y.”

Give the interviewer a chance to get the core of the interview before you bring up a loosely related issue. The interviewer may choose to revisit that topic with you at a later date.

This is the first part in a two-part series on doing media interviews.

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