04 Sep 2019
This advice is reproduced with kind permission of Wordways Media Training.
You’ve worked out your media strategy, made your contacts, crafted an amazing press release and now interest is flooding in.
Giving an interview to local or regional radio and TV will serve to put a face to the story and make it interesting for their audiences. Here's how to prepare and give a successful interview.
Make sure you know the answers to the following questions, and ask the interviewer if you're unsure:
- What’s the news story's angle?
- What specific questions do they want to ask?
- How long will it last?
- Will it be a pre-recorded or live interview?
- Is anyone else being interviewed for the same story? If so, who are they and what's their viewpoint? Are they being interviewed before you or after you? Will it be set up like a debate? (Particularly relevant for TV and radio).
You will also want to:
- Give the interviewer your contact details – use a mobile if possible and make sure you have theirs.
- Confirm where and when you’re meeting them or what time they will phone if it’s a radio interview.
- If it’s a TV interview, consider getting a prop carrying your logo into the background to create a stronger visual message.
- Email any extra info you think would be useful for them to formulate the best questions.
- Find out when your interview will be broadcast and try to record it. Use recordings to see how you come across and to learn how you can improve.
Preparing for your interview
- Think about what you want to say – what are the 3 key messages you want to get across?
- You may find that when your interview is broadcast it has been cut. So be prepared for the possibility that you may be on the air for as little as 10 seconds. Most people can say around 30 words in 10 seconds, so it's worth having a good soundbite to hand. Bear this in mind when you’re preparing for your interview.
- Practice what you want to say out loud – this will help you feel confident and remember what you want to say more effectively than just going over your message inside your head.
- Warm up your voice and do some relaxation exercises to help with nerves, eg, deep breathing.
- Think about the difficult questions that you could be asked and practise how you would respond to them.
- Know your key messages. If you encounter a difficult question you can acknowledge it and bridge your response back to your prepared statements.
- Have a relaxed, open posture – don't fidget or cross your arms.
- Speak slowly and take pauses.
- Be clear and succinct – use short sentences and simple language.
- Don’t assume the audience knows what you’re talking about – avoid jargon and technical words without explaining them.
- Imagine you’re speaking to just one person.
How media interviews are set up
You will almost certainly get more radio opportunities than TV.
When you’re contacted always try to buy time to prepare your thoughts and your voice. Check with them what their deadline is for recording your comments and arrange a time that suits you both. You should usually be able to gain yourself half an hour at the very least, which will give you time to think about what you want to say, warm up your voice and calm your nerves.
There are two main types of radio interview: pre-recorded and live.
Pre-recorded interviews usually take place over the phone but could also be on location. Always try to use a landline for phone interviews.
Live interviews are more likely to be in the radio station’s studio, but could also take place on the phone or on location. Drive time (5-6pm) on your local BBC radio station is a good slot as you get longer to explain your message.
Early morning interviews: be prepared to be asked to speak as early in the morning as 7am. These interviews are usually on the phone and while you may still be in your pyjamas make sure you’ve warmed up your voice.
Delivery: although no one can see you, you should still smile – being friendly and relaxed will come across in your voice. Sit or stand – whichever feels most comfortable.
Pre-recorded interviews are usually transmitted in a 6pm package on local news or as part of a documentary or magazine programme.
For a news story you will usually be contacted after the morning’s planning meeting is over at 11am and the interview is likely to be set up for lunchtime/early afternoon. Interviews could take place in your office or on location.
Live TV interviews are very unusual but are a possibility for chat shows such as 'This Morning'.
For both radio and TV, if you’ve approached the media yourself with a story, before you contact anyone make sure you’re really clear about your messages, are ready for any questions and have plenty of times when you’re available to be interviewed. Always run through your pre-interview check list.
Reproduced with kind permission of Wordways Media Training