There’s nothing natural about being on television.
It’s awkward, the lights can be hot, and you’re expected to look directly into the camera (if you’re remote) or at the reporter (if you’re in-studio or on the street), but make it seem like you’re having an informal, sit-down coffee chat with a family member.
No pressure at all, right?
In my life prior to public relations and communications, I worked as a writer and segment producer for a local station and a network in New York City.
Now as a PR pro, I help train clients on how to take control of an interview and give them tips for making the most of the opportunity. Here are a few things I like to share with my clients who are prepping for a TV interview.
1. A five-minute interview means you did well
This, of course, does not apply for a sit-down, in-studio interview with an allotted segment time. If a reporter or producer is looking for your insight into a topic, you should always speak in prepared soundbites. The sooner you give the reporter what they want, the sooner the interview will be over.
Typically, if interviews go on for more than five minutes, it’s because the reporter is fishing for a usable quote. Ahead of an interview, prepare three statements that are short, concise and to-the-point.
At rbb, we have developed a surefire way to ensure we are not at an interview to answer questions but, rather, deliver our messages. A typical soundbite should be anywhere from seven to 10 seconds.
Also, if the interview isn’t meant to be hard-hitting, we always ask the reporter or producer for questions, or – at the very least – talking points ahead of time.
2. Take a deep breath before answering each question, and speak slowly
All too often, an interviewee succumbs to nerves and starts rattling off answers.
Always take two to three seconds after the reporter asks his or her question to collect your thoughts and take a deep breath before beginning your commentary.
This may be feel like the longest pause of your life, but it does not translate that way on camera. We train spokespeople to always revert back to the three key messages.
This pause gives you an opportunity to really figure out how to satisfy the question and also to ensure you’re hitting those main points.
On that note, also speak slower than you typically would in normal day-to-day conversation. Again, this may feel odd at first, but it looks much more poised and collected on-camera.
3. Think like a producer
The best way to get your story and messaging across in the way you want is to essentially become your own segment producer.
rbb does this by preparing and sending along any materials to the actual segment producer that illustrates the story or supports the commentary. These could be images or even ideas for full screen graphics (think: bullet lists, timelines).
These should be supporting collateral, but should not seem self-promotional. It’s a fine line. Depending on the relationship and the nature of the outlet, we can even sometimes send over some suggested questions to guide the conversation.
Always be aware that with live television, anything can happen. Your on-air time make be cut down to accommodate breaking news, you may be bumped to a different block of the show, or the reporter may ask something off-topic. That’s why rbb always prepares spokespeople on how to manage the unexpected like a pro.
We understand the old adages that ‘practice makes perfect’ and ‘seeing is believing.’ rbb’s media training program first puts you in front of the camera for a mock interview, and then our staff reviews what worked and what could be improved.
Throughout the process, rbb provides tips and shows supporting video examples, to guide the learning experience while sharpening your message so you can excel at your next TV interview.