By Jina You
One of the first things a journalist learns when starting out is the KISS principle: “Keep it Simple Stupid”. Complexity, abstract notions, and ambiguity are considered bad writing and deleted out of news stories.
The same goes for interviews. Reporters will think you’re a genius if you’re able to take complex subject matter and explain it in a simple, compelling way.
That truth came home to me when one day when I had to interview a university professor for a TV news story. No matter how many times I would repeat the question trying to get a “soundbyte”, he struggled to explain his subject matter. Needless to say, his interview never made it on the news.
We all have “industry speak” within our professions, but it’s important never to use it during an interview, whether it’s televised, recorded or printed. That’s because your words will be disseminated to a wide audience of business people, housewives, students, educators, et cetera who are hearing or reading about your story for the first time. The message will mean nothing if they don’t know what you’re talking about.
Losing the jargon and the fancy acronyms has another purpose too (besides avoiding to put the reporter to sleep), it will force you to speak in clearer, tighter sentences and overall communicate better. The challenge is always this: what is the one take away the audience is going to remember?
Keep your message to three key ideas in order to stand out from the background noise. Try the 12-year old nephew test: could he understand your topic if you explained it? He should.
Knowing how to explain your subject in clear simple terms will earn you points with a reporter and help establish you as a go-to source in every interview you do.