This is part two of our series on "Giving a Good TV Interview." (To read part one, which focuses on your appearance, please click here.)
Whether you’re taking a test, performing at a recital, having a baby or traveling, for all of these events you have to do one thing first. Prepare! Giving a media interview also involves preparation and you want to make sure you do a few things before a journalist is asking you all sorts of questions.
Terri Thornton was in radio and TV for 20 years before founding Thornton Communications, an award-winning Atlanta-based PR and Content Marketing firm, so I asked her to share her advice on how to prepare.
These are her top suggestions:
Questions to Ask
“Will it be live, or recorded?”
If it's live – anticipate every possible question you might be asked. You don't want to be surprised on live TV! Also, assume you are live the entire time, even if it seems like you’re off the air. If it’s recorded, you have a little more flexibility, but less of it will likely air.
“Where will the interview be?”
The crew may bring their gear to your office or event and set up in a spot with something interesting in the background. If they ask you to come to their studio, you may be on a set facing the interviewer as you would in any other conversation. But, especially with national interviews, you might be sitting on a stool in a nearly empty room, answering questions someone in another city is asking through an earpiece. Don't worry - it will be fine!
“How long will it be?”
This is really a two-part question.
- How long will it take to do the interview?
- How long will your part of the final story be?
If you’re being interviewed live at your office or in a studio, it may take a few minutes to set up, and the interview may last three or four minutes. When I prepare my clients for interviews, I set a timer for four minutes. They are generally shocked at how quickly the time goes by. But they have an idea that this is a whole different time frame than anything else they will encounter during the average work day – even their busiest ones.
If a reporter’s covering an event or breaking news, they probably want short, informative, catchy sound bites. You might talk for five minutes, but only a few seconds will end up on the air. A recorded interview in the studio or your office may last much longer, but again, the time it takes to record it may have no bearing on the amount of time you are on the air.
“When will it air?”
It’s always subject to change. It might be scheduled for a specific time in a specific newscast. It might be up in the air. Or it might be online only. After it airs, it will probably be available on the web. Assuming everything goes well, you should be able to share the link on your social media channels.
“Do you need any other video or photos?”
A reporter needs a lot more than a “talking head” to make a good story –they also need compelling visuals that show what’s happening and keep people watching. If you have video, infographics or images, make the reporter aware before the interview starts.
“What part will actually air?”
This question can wait till the interview in completed. If it was live – they just ran all of it! (Though they may also use parts of it again later.)
If the interview is recorded, the reporter may already have an idea how things will fit together. If they do, this gives you the chance to avoid a potential misunderstanding and clarify a few fine points.
But don’t be disappointed if they don’t know yet. They may have other interviews to do. They may decide as they write and assemble the story.
One Final Exercise
Finally, here’s a preparation exercise to improve the odds that what you consider the most important part of a recorded interview will actually air.
- Determine your absolute most important point or points.
- Think of an analogy that people will understand. Comparing a complex point to something relatable helps you and the journalist.
- Talk it through ahead of time with someone you trust. Keep it as simple and concise as you can.
During the interview, it’s okay to say it more than once – you might say it better the second time, anyway!
Just avoid the sort of jokes or asides you’d share with close friends, or your off-the-cuff remark may end up being your only presence in the story.
Finally, do a practice interview with someone who’s been on TV. Nothing replaces experience and preparation.
Although it may seem like a lot of work, preparing is absolutely necessary. If you’re prepared, your interview will go better, you’ll feel better and you’ll have fun.
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