Saturday, December 18th, 2010
Kanye West Squares off with Matt Lauer: A Lesson in Preparation
Well, there isn’t any other word to use except “uncomfortable” when describing the somewhat painful exchange between Matt Lauer and Kanye West. West, whose two big media faux pas were stating “George Bush does not like black people” after Hurricane Katrina, and stealing the mic from Taylor Swift at last year’s VMAs, was asked to come and respond to President Bush’s statement that West calling him a racist was the low point of his presidency. His interview should be held as an example of how not enough preparation can leave a bad taste in your mouth, and tarnish an already vulnerable image.
There was nothing new in this interview, by way of process. Lauer asked the questions about President Bush, West’s response, whether he was sorry, and then asked how he liked it when people called him a racist (albeit that by definition that was the incorrect descriptor), when he stole the mic from Swift. But somehow, Kanye either thought the standard interview procedures did not apply to him, or he didn’t have anyone around him to prepare him for what to expect. At least three times during the interview, West either stopped to scold the floor crew, or Lauer for running the clips in question underneath his answers or the show itself for “doing something like that” to him.
For anyone asked to be involved in an interview where the sole purpose for your presence is to respond or react to someone else’s comments or behaviors, there are a few expectations you should have without ever having to speak to a producer or director, or publicist.
You can anticipate what the questions are, spend some time thinking about your answers before you arrive to the studio. Know what you want to say and use your vocabulary to say it.
Stay away from fillers: “you know what I’m saying,” “you know what I mean,” “it’s just, like”. Failure to use real and specific words to articulate your thoughts expose weaknesses in your argument, detract from your credibility, and lessen whatever impact you hope to have on your audience.
Know that if you’re going to be asked about something, if they have video or pictures of it, the reporter is going to show it. If you don’t like it, don’t do the interview. If you can’t speak while other things are going on, don’t do the interview.
People talking in the studio during an interview is normal. Camera crews are talking to the control room, producers may be getting the next guests in place, and…shocker though it may be, people actually respond to thoughts and ideas when other people are talking.
If you can understand and accept these basic rules, you’ll be somewhat prepared for your next interview. Failure to do this can bring negative media coverage, continued backlash after the fact. When West tweeted about the interview with profanity and anger, he was not boosting his image by any stretch. In fact, he simply continued to demonstrate that he is not business or communication savvy, and he isn’t ready to be the mega star that he would like, because he’s still more hot-head than rational and mature adult.
Learn from his experience. Be prepared. Know the situation, know the environment, know the reporter’s style, and know what you’re going to say before your arrive. All of the above can only help you take you to the next level.
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