The media is inundated with stories, yet reporters are always looking for good content. If you’ve got a great story to tell or an upcoming event to promote, with broad reach, chances are a TV reporter will be interested. If you’re lucky enough to be invited on a newscast to talk about your story or event, it’s important to make the most out of your 1.5 minutes of fame.
To capture the attention of the audience, a little prep work is in order before pulling into the TV station parking lot. Begin by researching the reporter and TV show or newscast. Take a look at social media and get a feel for the reporter or station’s style. Learn something new about the reporter and be ready to discuss prior to going live on air. It will help break the ice and make both of you more relaxed. Does the reporter post pictures of children or pets on his or her Twitter account? You might mention, “Hey, I saw some photos on your Twitter feed of cute kids. Are those your children?” Besides giving the reporter a chance to talk about him/herself, it lets them know you cared enough to do some research.
Often interviewees are unsure of where to look. When it’s time to go live, don’t worry about the camera. Instead, look at the person interviewing you. You’ll be more at ease if you pretend it’s just you and the reporter having a conversation as if you’re in a coffee shop. The more relaxed you look, the more the viewers will want to continue to watch. If the interview includes several people or a panel, look at the person speaking. Remember, the camera can pan out and capture the group, so always be camera ready!
What to wear is an important question whether you’re on TV or not! Have you ever watched the 10 p.m. news and the anchor’s tie or jacket catches your attention? If it seems to be moving and fuzzy, it’s not your eyes. Chances are the fabric has a small pattern. Checks, houndstooth and sometimes stripes cause the clothing item to dance or move. To get the viewer to focus on you and listen to what you’re saying, it’s best to wear solid, dark clothing. A white shirt and tie are great for a corporate meeting, but on camera it’s too stark. Consider a blue or other solid colored shirt instead. Women who wear dresses or skirts should consider the length and be mindful of how they sit in the chair. Cross your feet at the ankle and tilt your legs to one side. Remember Mia in the Princess Diaries?!
If your interview is not in-studio, put some consideration into your location and backdrop. If you’re conducting an interview about highway funding, it might seem like a good idea to stand in front of a highway or stretch of road that will be impacted. Don’t do it. The noise and the traffic will be loud and distracting. When you’re ready to do an out of studio interview, it’s a good idea to turn around to see what’s behind you. The right backdrop can help tell the story. If you have a positive story to tell, try to position yourself in front of your company logo. If the news is not so great, avoid it.
Practice makes perfect, and the more you can review your talking points, the more comfortable you’ll be. Pay attention to your hand gestures, which can be a distraction. Body language is important too, so remember what your mom said about sitting up straight!
Additional advance work for the TV station:
- A few days before the interview, provide the producer or reporter with the name, title, and company name of the person who will be interviewed so they can prepare a graphic to display on screen. Include any other important information (i.e., website, event location address, hours, phone number) to be displayed on screen.
- Video footage or still images can be used on air during the interview if provided in advance.
- Ask where to park and what door to use. If you’re doing a 5:45 a.m. interview for the morning news, be sure to ask if the door will be unlocked.
- Get the number of the producer or another staff member in case of a last-minute emergency.
- After the interview, monitor the TV station website and social media for a link to the story, which you can reshare on your own social media.
You know your story better than anyone else, and with a little thought, planning and practice, you’ll come off as a media expert. If you’d like to learn more about prepping for an interview, give us a call. We’re experts at conducting media and spokesperson training, including a videotaped before and after mock interview and critique session, which participants find most helpful. Stay tuned for a future follow up post on how to stay on message during the interview.