interview ronn torossian

Often, when people think about public relations, they think about major national media attention or scandals that throw once-trusted brands into chaos. But there are moments, even on the biggest of stages, that PR can get very personal.

I’m not talking about being forced to answer embarrassing questions or being publicly “outed” in a humiliating way. I’m talking about the inherent tunneling that can happen during an interview, the connection between the interviewer and their subject that pushes out the world and can make the subject feel like a target. This exchange is fraught with subtext and more often than not defined as much by nonverbal communication than by the soundbites milled from the exchange.

So, how can you be better prepared for your next interview? How can you know you’re ready, even when you don’t really know what questions are coming? Here are a few simple rules to follow that will help you be your best in any interview, no matter how below the belt the questions become.

Research the Reporter Ahead of Time

If you are going to sit down, one-on-one, with a reporter, get to know how they work. Watch other interviews. Look for their cadence, question order, standard topics. Read previous articles and look for focuses and tendencies. Look especially at how they have covered people or brands like you in the past. Are they apt to be sympathetic or confrontational? Upbeat or challenging? Do they like to draw subjects in, then drop the hammer, or are they tough all the way through?

Be Prepared for What’s Coming

If you are sitting down for an interview during a PR crisis, be realistic about the kinds of questions you will be asked. Prepare responses to the toughest versions of the questions you think will be coming, then prepare follow up answers to the questions that will be created by your answers. Understand that deflections or tantrums in these key moments look very bad for you, so practice being forthright and calm while getting grilled, so you won’t lose your cool.

Stay on Message

An interview is not just about what they want to ask you, it’s also – and more importantly – about what you want to say to their audience. Practice your most important messages until you have them down cold. Then work out ways to direct answers back to your key messages. When you try this without practice it can come off as wooden, looking like a deflection, like you didn’t want to answer the question. So, practice both crafting your message and how to use conversational connectors (or ‘verbal bridges’) to bring the thread back around to the message you really want to get out. Work on this until it looks, sounds, and feel natural.

Get Caught up on Current Events

It’s always a good idea to by familiar with the current events of the day, especially where they may intersect with your message. Sure, it’s okay to change the subject if you get caught off guard, but it’s much better if you can comment with authority before pivoting to a more comfortable topic. Just understand that the reporter is looking for a story that is interesting and timely, making it newsworthy. If they can connect your conversation to something else in the headlines, it’s a win for them. If you go in with that understanding and handle it well, it can be a win for you too.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.