These days, CEOs are big news. If you're asked to do an interview -- be it for newspapers, magazines, television, or radio -- keep in mind that an interview is not just a conversation. It's a chance to get your key messages across. You have to train for it.

That's just what I did last year, in preparation for a book tour. I put myself through a couple of workshops with Jeff Bloch, who trains executives and other newsmakers for media appearances. Here's what I learned:

  • Don't get distracted from your key messages. If an interviewer asks you a question that's irrelevant to your objectives, steer the conversation in the direction you want it to go. If asked (as I frequently was) about the state of the stock market, I didn't waste valuable moments proving my worth as an investment guru. Instead, I'd answer: "It's interesting that you bring up the stock market, because one thing that my research reveals is that white-collar conditions have deteriorated whether stocks go up or down. And I think that many people have seen that in their own lives."
  • Don't do an interview before you're ready. Media training is all about good preparation, so don't undermine yourself by picking up the phone and agreeing to answer "a few questions" on the spot. Even if you only buy yourself half-an-hour of prep time, it makes sense to schedule an interview at a later point, so that you can think about how best to get your messages across to the interviewer's audience.
  • Don't use or repeat problem phrases. We've all heard them: "I didn't inhale." "I'm not a bimbo." "I'm not a crook." Because they're so colorful, they have the potential to get endlessly reiterated by the media. Jeff's recommendation: If you want to deny or disagree with something an interviewer says, look for non-quoteworthy ways to do it, such as "Well, I don't think I would use those words" or "I wouldn't say that." Then, switch gears and concentrate on your three messages.

Jill Andresky Fraser ( is Inc Magazine's finance editor.

Copyright © 2002 G&J USA Publishing.