Ambush Interview Survival Guide

Written by Ellie Thien

August 15, 2017


Imagine this: You’re walking out of your office and – bam! – there’s a reporter and a camera waiting for you. They start asking about the latest controversy, how you’re responding, and what you’ll do about it. Surprise – you’ve been ambushed. In scenarios like these, it’s easy to become defensive or angry with the reporter. To avoid an upset and distressed testimony becoming media ‘gold,’ take these five actions to ensure a positive and controlled interview:


A reporter can’t catch you off guard if you’re prepared. If you find yourself involved in a controversial story, know your company’s official stance and statement on the issue. For everyday matters, always know your mission statement and be able to reiterate that in a clear and concise manner.


When a reporter approaches you, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Who are they? What news source are they with? What is the interview regarding? What questions will they be asking? This lets you know what to expect from the interview and gives you a few extra moments to prepare.


Communicate your main messages several times throughout the interview and keep it at the center of the conversation. This keeps the interview from being sidetracked and enforces a confident feeling to the reporter and viewers.


Storytelling is a powerful tool in media interviews. Have a collection of personal and professional anecdotes that relate to your message and pull them out when a reporter asks for examples or details. It is difficult for reporters to argue against personal stories.


Take a deep breath before you begin the interview. Relax your stance and facial expression so you don’t appear defensive. Always be polite to the reporter and never be triggered by hostile approaches. Being calm defeats the reporter’s purpose of ambushing you and makes you appear confident and credible.


Want an example of what to avoid? Watch a healthcare executive escape questions from reporters . . . by eating a cookie.