The art of live interviews

The art of live interviews

One of the core aspects of successful public relations is enabling dialogue between clients and journalists. Often these conversations take place in an office, on a Skype call, at a trade show or (on some occasions) over lunch at The Ivy.

Some clients are incredibly affable and great orators, capable of engaging the journalist and conveying key messages, whilst others need some media training and coaching to feel truly comfortable in this situation. Both require the proper preparation.

Car crash TV

However, one thing all clients dread is a live interview on national TV. It is the fear of the unknown. What if I mumble or lose my train of thought? How bright will the lights be? What if the journalist asks a question I do not want to answer?

Sitting in a studio at Broadcasting House as the seconds count down can be incredibly nerve-wrecking for many people – welcome to the world of car-crash TV. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbot is notorious for awkward interviews, whereas Professor Robert Kelly may always be remembered by some as the man whose kids gate-crashed his live BBC interview.

However, with the right preparation anyone can succeed and reap the benefits of such exposure.
Below are some top tips for helping you nail a live interview:

1) Know your journalists

Do your research. Share videos of previous interviews the journalist has done with your client so they can understand the type of person they are dealing with. Prepping someone for an interview with Dan Walker requires a different approach to one with Jeremy Paxman.

2) Prepare for every eventuality

More often than not, live TV interviews are organised late in the day. If a story breaks and your client is the expert on a particular topic, you will not have time to go through every possible question they may get asked – remember to carry out regular media training.

3) Use your core messages

Under the hot lights of a TV studio it is easy to lose your train of thought. Make sure you have 3-4 key messages prepared in advance to weave into the conversation. The interview is only going to last a couple of minutes, so it is important these messages are engaging and succinct – for the sake of both the journalist and the watching audience.

4) Have a safety blanket (or two)

Nothing looks worse than someone refusing to answer a question – something politicians are famed for doing. If your client is being interviewed on a potentially controversial topic, make sure they have a ‘safety blanket’ – a key message that they can revert back to and use to steer the interview the way they want it to go.

5) Project confidence

We have all heard of the phrase, “fake it till you make it” and this can ring true when it comes to live interviews. As much as what you say is important, television is a visual medium and the way you speak and act is important too.
There is no shame in practicing your delivery in the green room beforehand. Use every available opportunity to rehearse your messaging.

At XL Communications we have secured and successfully prepared numerous clients for live television interviews over the years – check out one of our current clients, Ian Dryburgh (CEO and Founder of Acumen Design Associates) delivering a fine performance on BBC Business Live here!

Looking for media training or want help with improving your briefing techniques? Get in touch today!

Liam Andrews

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