03.13.2017 | Alec Drozdowski
TV interviews are a terrifying prospect for many people. For a multitude of reasons, putting a camera in front of someone’s face has a unique ability to inspire stress and lapses in judgment that can curtail an interview from its intended focus. But have no to fear! There are a lot of things spokespeople can do to prepare for TV interviews and ensure they are at their best when speaking to broadcast journalists.
The topic of preparing for a TV interview came up recently when CPR worked with a spokesperson from A Place for Mom – the nation’s largest senior living referral service – to prep for a local TV appearance. (Technically it was a Skype interview, but similar in the sense that visuals should be taken into account when planning for the appearance). The spokesperson did an amazing job during the interview, which can be seen here if interested, and below are a few things we discussed in the training sessions leading up to the appearance:
Practice, practice, practice. Although it is a very cliché thing to say, it’s imperative that a spokesperson rehearses prior to an interview. Running through Q&As and practicing answers before the interview will ensure the spokesperson is comfortable with the subject matter and help identify answers that may need work. Try scheduling mock interviews with a co-worker or friend to prepare, or at the very least, recite talking points in front of a mirror before conducting the interview.
Select the appropriate clothing. TV is a visual format and wearing an inappropriate outfit can potentially distract the audience from the speakers’ actual message. In general, people should wear solid colors, avoiding checkered or striped shirts. Accessories should be kept to a minimum and appear subtle. And finally, dress to impress. In more cases than not, wearing formal clothes that empower the spokesperson and project leadership is recommended for TV appearances.
Demonstrate engagement. Viewers are most interested in watching and listening to people who are passionate about what they do, even if the topic can be considered “bland.” Show enthusiasm when speaking about a topic, making eye contact with the interviewer and using hand and body language to emphasize key points and bring messages to life. A spokesperson’s enthusiasm can persuade viewers that the subject matter is worth learning about.
Offer soundbites. TV interviews are often cut into short segments, so speaking in sound bites is a good way to ensure key messaging isn’t cut on the editing floor. Before the interview, think about the top three to four things that need to be conveyed and practice giving short and succinct sound bites around the point.
Think about body language. Professor Mehrabian came up with the 7 percent rule, explaining that “communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal.” This holds particularly true during broadcast interviews, where a spokesperson should think about what their body language is saying to the audience. Crossed arms? That’s a sign of defensiveness. Slouched over in a chair? That shows unprofessionalism. Before participating in a TV interview, record yourself practicing and look for body language that may be distracting to viewers to help avoid doing such things during the actual interview.
Relax. Beyond anything else, people need to relax before participating in an interview. Take deep, calming breaths before the appearance to unwind. Bring a friend for support if it’s helpful, or do whatever is necessary to calm nerves before the interview. Nervousness can interrupt speech patterns and be very visible to a TV audience, but being calm and collected can help ensure people are actually digesting what is being said.
Interested in learning about more PR tips and best practices? If so, be sure to check these other helpful posts on the CPR blog: Seven Ways to Ace that Public Relations Agency Interview, Conducting the Successful Satellite Media Tour and The Perfect Press List.