Whether the target is customers, shareholders or employees, the LIVE TV interview is one of the most effective ways to get the message across.
However, it can also be one of the most lethal. A five-minute, no-holds barred on-air interview with a seasoned presenter has the potential to be a communications triumph or a reputation damaging nightmare. All it takes is one verbal slip-up from the company’s CEO – or any other spokesperson – to undermine years of conscientious brand-building.
That’s why PR practitioners should never underestimate the need to prepare for TV interviews (or any other type of interviews, for that matter). That means ensuring that every spokesperson has been equipped with the information they need to tell a great story and received proper training.
Here are three tips (plus one bonus tip) that you can use to guarantee an outstanding interview.
Begin with the battlefield
Give your spokesperson as much relevant background information as possible. The keyword here is ‘relevant’. Don’t inundate the poor soul with ten pages of briefing notes on things that aren’t likely to come up. Instead, focus on the story and provide the right background and supporting messaging.
Inform them about the media you’ve pitched to. Does the show focus on business news? Is the segment about technology or movements in the financial market? More importantly, give them some guidance on the presenter’s interview style and temperament.
Just as crucial as the media profile is a cheat sheet on the current industry landscape. Extract the salient points from news articles, analyst reports and other sources to get your TV star up to speed with the latest developments.
Sell the success story
Always remember that time is of the essence. Broadcast interviews are usually much shorter than phone or face-to-face interviews with printed titles. So remind the speaker not to waste any time in getting those key messages across. It’s not an easy task, but the aim is to weave in as much messaging as possible without sounding like a walking advertorial.
Speed is also of the essence. Unlike a panelist fielding questions at a seminar, your spokesperson needs to respond almost instantly to questions when on-air. This is where the preparation of a Q&A document consisting of anticipated questions and suggested responses can be crucial. Arming the interviewee with a comprehensive Q&A can pre-empt curveballs and help to significantly lower the chances of blunders and awkward silences.
Emulate your ‘enemy’
Of course, the term ‘enemy’ is an over-dramatization. Nevertheless, the idea is to remind your speaker that they need to be careful, no matter how charming the TV anchor happens to be.
Once the spokesperson is familiar with the Q&A, simulate the actual interview by engaging in role-play exercises. Make it feel real by getting someone to mimic the presenter’s on-screen persona. And set up the space to resemble the TV studio as closely as possible.
Don’t forget to record the session on video for immediate playback and critique. A camera instantly increases the pressure on a spokesperson, which helps them focus on their “performance”.
Mind the Miscellaneous
The basics will always matter, so, be constantly aware of things like tone of voice and body language. Wardrobe is also important. Simple designs and solid colors are best for TV, because they pick up well on camera and don’t distract the audience from what matters: your speaker’s opinion on the subject matter.
Finally, don’t be afraid to point out bad habits that will affect the interviewee’s credibility as a speaker or thought leader. As much as possible, try to eliminate pauses, fillers, eccentric body movements and other signs that stick out like a sore thumb.