As a PR looking to get your client a broadcast interview, whether on TV or radio, know your client’s selling point: What makes them an expert? What is going to set them apart from everyone else? What can they bring to the table?
I’ve compiled a number of tips that will come in handy when media training your client, or even preparing yourself (we PR’s do interviews on occasion too, you know). Whether you or your client are complete newbies to interviews or seasoned pros, it never hurts to have a refresher…
If you don’t know what your client’s skills are when it comes to on-the-spot interviews, don’t be afraid to suggest some mock interviews – in person or over the phone. Likewise, if you have one lined up for yourself, ask different members of your team to run through mock interviews with you, offering a variety of approaches and questions.
It’s during these mock interviews that you’ll truly determine someone’s demeanour when being interviewed. Do they think before they respond? Do they panic? Do they move around a lot? These are all things that need to be considered. There are some things that can be trained, such as learning how to respond to questions you don’t want to (or can’t) answer, as well as some things that might need to be trained out, such as fidgeting too much, not holding eye contact with the journalist and so on.
It’s also worth remembering that not all interviews will be done face-to-face; sometimes, for convenience, those being interviewed can go to other studios, or it may well be that they dial in over the phone or have to do them via Skype. This was the case when we worked with Medical Accident Group, securing an interview for Inez Brown, head of the clinical negligence team, with Sky News to discuss the NHS encouragement of women giving birth at home.
Ask if there are any set questions/topics
So a journalist wants to talk to you? Great! The ball is rolling and you are totally within your rights to ask if there is a set angle for the interview, if there are any questions you can use to prepare yourself, or even if you’re going to be part of a wider debate with other experts.
All of this will prevent you from having a panicked, speechless moment due to an unexpected line of enquiry, will ensure you are prepared to answer the questions as best as you can, and allow you to do any research you might need to do beforehand.
Know that nothing is “off the record”
Any conversations that you have with the presenter before going on air, on TV or on radio, are not considered to be “off the record” and know that anything you say may get brought up on air (as we regularly see when watching the news or listening to the radio).
Keep sweeping comments and opinions to a minimum and focus on what you’re there for.
The last thing you want to do is make an accidental comment off air and for it to then be brought up for everyone at home listening in, leaving you in an embarrassing predicament.
You want to be an engaging person to be interviewed; someone that will be remembered for being easy to talk to, someone who is remembered for being an ace interviewee, and someone that is asked to come back at a later date.
If you’re shy or get stage fright, if you answer questions with one word answers or if you keep your head down throughout the interview, you’re unlikely to get a call back. Be happy, concise, speak at a speed that people can understand and be loud enough to be heard – all of these are attributes of a good speaker.
Sharon Walpole, Director of Careermap, is a great example of a client that is enthusiastic and engaging. For A Level Results Day, we secured Sharon a Facebook Live video interview with the BBC and she smashed it!
Don’t rush an answer
Give the journalist or presenter ample time to answer their question; don’t try to pre-empt what they’re asking and throw an answer out before they’ve finished their sentence. Not only will you be considered rude for jumping in, but the question might not end up being what you thought it was, and you will either then look daft for responding wrong, or your answer may be misconstrued and taken out of context.
Most importantly: try to train yourself into the habit of thinking before you speak. There have been many times my mouth has got carried away and thrown an answer out before my brain has had a chance to digest the question and I’ve wanted the ground to swallow me up (although only once during an interview – and thankfully it wasn’t a bad scenario).
Breathe and don’t talk too fast
When on the spot, or feeling nervous about a situation, many of us naturally speak much quicker than normal, but this isn’t ideal for interviews, on TV or on the radio. Viewers and listeners want to be able to understand everything that you’re saying in order to digest the information, as does the interviewer.
Remember to take big breathes and, when feeling nervous, focus on your breathing – don’t panic and let the situation get out of control.
Laurent Calando, the French Co-Founder of Samboat, another client of ours, was secured an interview live on air with Talking Business on BBC World TV. Being French, with English not being his first language, Laurent is a great example of a client that had to think before he spoke and not talk too fast, in order for his message to translate and come across in the correct manner.
Work on your body language
Sit up straight, make eye contact and don’t fidget or play with your hands… these are just a few key aspects of body language that presenters and viewers at home are going to be noticing when you’re being interviewed on TV.
While this doesn’t matter quite so much on radio, the presenters and journalists will still learn a lot about you based on your body language.
Keep your key messages in mind
No matter what the topic is that you’re talking about, there is going to be a key angle – the reason you’re involved in the interview in the first place. If you’ve had chance to prep, you will know your key messages well, and you will know what it is that you want to instil in listeners and viewers. If you’re struggling to respond to a question, or you feel the interview is going off course, keep your key messages in mind and always bring the interview back to this point.
Remember: YOU are the expert
You’ve been asked to take part in an interview because you’re deemed the expert on a specific topic. If you feel the interview is going off on a tangent, don’t be afraid to rein it in. Likewise, if you feel what you’re saying is being scrutinised or made to look incorrect, explain what you’re saying and why; do you have any evidence to back it up, have other people said the same, and so on?
If you or your client needs some extra help, our CEO – Andy Barr – is well versed in media training and is more than happy to help. Get in touch via our Contact Us page for more info.