Having the news media interview you or someone from your company sounds like a dream come true, huh? What many people don’t realize though, is that interviews can make or break you. A single interview can determine how the public perceives you and your company. As we all know, perception is reality – so how about grounding yourself in reality – crossing your fingers and hoping for the best isn’t going to cut it.
But alas, there are training courses on how to give a good interview, literature available online and books that you can buy to help you out. Problem is, many interviews are unexpected and on the spot.
To you, we give our top 10 tips for interviewing on camera for edited broadcast news features, clips or segments. Take this whitepaper as an overview, an outline of what to do, how to act, and more importantly, how to say what needs to be said.
1. Do Dress Accordingly – When attending any event or company gathering, where there will be news cameras, dress accordingly. No flashy colors, weird hairstyles, bulky jewelry or overdone makeup (like cat-eyes). Depending on where you are, you might need a full suit and tie. For many casual events, consider wearing a polo shirt with your company logo on the breast. Picture being on camera from the sternum up, but don’t discount the slacks!
2. Do Think in Sound Bites – Wherever you are, you should be able to produce a short,
9-second sound bite for the camera. Include: Name, position & company, where you are, what is happening and how this is beneficial to the community and/or the company.
For example, “I’m Jennifer Johnstone, public relations manager of evok advertising. I’m out here with the Florida Tuskers football team today as they celebrate breast cancer awareness and honor 10 local survivors on the field.”
3. Don’t Forget Key Points – I’ve seen it dozens of times – the person being interviewed gets in their sound bite and then stares blankly at the camera. As a true advocate of your company or organization, you should be able to produce a few key points that will keep the camera on you a little longer. The better the points, the better the coverage. Hopefully your cameraman will continue asking you questions to keep you on your feet, but don’t take the extra help for granted, it doesn’t always happen.
4. Don’t Kill the News Values – Most broadcast news interviews are used and reused over a 24-48-hour cycle. That means you may be interviewed on a Thursday and not make your big TV appearance until Saturday. Even though these segments can be edited, try not to mention the date and time that you are being interviewed. This will kill the “timeliness” of the interview, and you don’t want to mess with the news values! Also, referring to the cameraman by name is not a good idea. Broadcast news segments will stick an anchor in front of you to introduce your interview. Say his name is Tom, and throughout the interview you are referring to Bill. It won’t sound right and the public will sense something is off.
5. Do Play the Game of Bridge – If you are a person who stays in the moment, you may start to realize that the cameraman, or even the interviewer, is not asking the right questions. Bridges serve as a nice way to acknowledge what the reporter is saying, but to link the question back to your key points. After answering a question that is close to allowing you to reach the heart of the matter, but misses the mark, throw in a bridge.
Here are some examples:
• “Great question, but the heart of the matter is…”
• “I would say that … is more to the point.”
• “Another thing to remember is…”
• “Let me add that…”
• “…but in addition…”
6. Don’t Speak to Your Co-Worker – When you are giving an interview, remember that you are speaking to the masses. Don’t use jargon that only your co-worker would understand, and don’t over complicate simple things. Be wary of acronyms as well. One of our clients is NMEDA (National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association), but in an interview I would use the full name frequently. The rule about using the whole name first and only once, only works for print. What if the media edits out the one time you said the whole name? Chances are they will, especially if it’s true that once an interview goes on, the interviewee gets more comfortable and sounds more natural.
7. Do Take Your Time – Rushed answers are the worst! They never will have the same effect as a well-thought out answer. When you are interviewing, remember to take pauses to think about things. Because of your adrenaline, a pause will feel like an eternity to you, but will really only be a few seconds in your interview. Also, long pauses can be edited out of the final piece. Another tactic I use when thinking of a great answer is repeating the question.
“And what strides have you made in the community thus far?”
“Well, our strides in the community have been numerous during our eight years in business. Most notably, our recent…”
8. Don’t Play Goggly-Eyes – Before I even get into body language, let me first address the question I get most often – where do you look during your interview? There is a person, and there is a camera. What if the person is holding the camera? And the camera – what if it’s next to their face? ALWAYS stare at the person when they are holding the camera. Looking at the camera will make you nervous. If the person is holding the camera on their shoulder, it will create the illusion that you are looking at the camera. If there is a reporter on camera with you, keep your stage presence in mind. Talk to the reporter directly, but it’s okay to occasionally look at the cameraman as if they are involved in the conversation, like you would with an audience. Though you must make sure that you are not giving only half your body to the camera. Stay open.
9. Don’t Smile Just to Smile – Everyone says to smile when you are on camera. But, be careful with this rule. I don’t want the President of So-And-So Financial Company smiling on camera as he tells me that their stocks have gone down and I’m out over 50%. I don’t want to see a giddy, smiling face make an announcement that their local mom and pop shop can no longer survive since the big guys moved in next door. I’m not saying you need to cry about it, but be sure to keep serious news, serious.
10. Do Correct the Incorrect – While on camera, you may be presented with a question that contains an untrue fact. The goal of a good interviewer is to correct the misinformation before proceeding to answer the question.
For example: “With eight guerilla publicity stunts in only one year, does your agency believe that consumers will no longer find these stunts entertaining in 2011?” “Actually, we have produced 10 stunts this year, and as an agency we believe that as long as they stand out, and create enough hype in the marketplace to go viral, they will continue to be successful in maintaining public attention in 2011.