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Can you tell what is wrong with this interview?

Blog post   •   Jul 31, 2018 13:23 +08

File photo: Sometimes interviews just don't go your way.

In sifting through dozens of media interviews to find candidates for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards, we see both good media appearances, and those where there is room for improvement.

It goes without saying that we always want to be encouraging, so usually we let the lesser performances slide. But sometimes we come across moments in interviews which provide significant learning opportunities which help our clients, precisely because things didn't go so well.

Like this one:

Bharati Jagdish: “You just received pre-series C funding am I right?”

Guest: “Hmm, that’s right.”

BJ: "The thing about startups, and I'm talking about this also from the perspective of traditional businessmen, let's just say these types of businesses are functioning mostly on funding. Are you even making any profit? Is this even a profitable business?"

Guest: "Every business in the very beginning stage definitely we don't really think about profit. The first thing is market share. But once you get enough market share, you are able to get some profit because you have the economy of scale, you are able to manage your cost, you are able to help your sellers to have more efficiency so that they can sell things cheaper to your customers."

BJ: But you've been in business for 8 years. How close are you to getting there?"

Guest: [Pauses] "Almost, almost yah. I think you know looking at other e-commerce in China, in US taking Amazon for example, taking Taobao, or JD for example, they actually have breakeven and get some profit. I think we are able to do that as well. I think in the near future we are going to be the only profitable e-commerce in this region."

BJ: “Why are you so confident?”

Guest: [Silence] “I can’t really share.”

BJ: ”Why not?”

Guest: “Ezbuy right now is not just in this region, we have also expanded to other countries outside of SEA region. That is why we need pre-Series C funding and with the expansion in other countries, we are able to, you know, sort of like work towards the breakeven perspective.”

Now, Jagdish's questions are totally fair and relevant. She could easily have continued to pursue her guest for a timeline to profitability, the size of her current losses, what demands her investors are placing on her, and so on. Her curiosity is completely justified. After all, the show is even called "On The Record".

But for the guest there are several points to be made here - and once again, I am offering this for no other reason than as a constructive learning opportunity:

  1. "No comment" doesn't work. On the contrary, phrases like "I can't really share" just invite more questions. But there are ways to pass up answering questions because, for whatever reason, you can't, without sounding like you are avoiding the question or getting the journalist offside. Ask me how.
  2. Offer value. No one likes to be sold to. Similarly, no member of your audience wants to be showered with glossy corporate messages. Especially in this day and age of skeptical audiences. There are ways to do this without shortchanging your brand.
  3. Anticipation. Having an idea of what the reporter is likely to ask is the obvious way to start preparing for an interview. Knowing where to look is not so obvious. We use an AI tool to do so. Ask me for a demo.

For the subject of this interview, we wish her nothing but fewer such moment and more successful interviews in the future.

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