Public Relations - How to Prepare For a Radio Or TV Interview
- Written by Jonathan Henderson
One of the most daunting aspects of PR work is appearing on television. And yet for many businessmen and women, there comes a time when making a TV appearance becomes essential, either to counter negative publicity or to take advantage of the massive PR benefits appearing on TV can bring.
In this article I will therefore reveal some basic guidelines to help prepare for a television or radio interview, to ensure that you create a good impression and (hopefully) are able to get across the message you want.
Why do an Interview?
Research has shown that people believe information more if it comes from a person they can see or hear. Taking part in interviews can add to public understanding of what your client does. In all cases the reporter asks the questions and guides the conversation. It is up to you (or your client) to try to make sure you get the chance to say what you want to say. And sometimes this means you have to thwart the reporter's hidden objectives.
Set Your Own Agenda
Before you agree to be interviewed make sure you have all the information you need. Be prepared with facts and rehearse your answers. Set out your own ground rules:
- Ask for a list of the questions the reporter wishes to ask, or at least a note of the broad areas for discussion.
- Try to arrange a time and place to suit yourself. If this is not possible make sure you take time to get all the necessary information before you begin.
What Kind of Interview?
- Will the interview be live or recorded? Live interviews are potentially more hazardous, but on the other hand they cannot be edited -- and possibly distorted -- in the way that a recorded interview can be.
- Will the interview be broadcast in a contentious way alongside other interviews?
- It may not a good idea to participate in "fly on the wall" shows (where cameramen or reporters request unrestricted access to work situations).
Getting Your Message Across
When preparing to undertake an interview write down the three or four main points you wish to make. Try to get these points across, whatever the question! When the reporter selects a part of your interview for broadcast you need to be sure there are a number of short, clear statements he can use. These are called "sound bites". Always try to begin your answer with a positive statement. Never repeat his question as part of your answer. Do not lie or fudge. If you don't know the answer, say so.
Losers and Winners
An interview can be a relatively pleasant experience where you, as the expert, are simply asked for information. An interview can also become an emotional battle where the journalist and you have different interests or are shown to mistrust each other. Such interviews can have a winner and a loser. The tone of the conversation is often set by the reporter and you should try not to become emotional in your answers. And if you are asked to debate a topic with someone who has a different view or opinion, try to make sure you get the last word. If you do, finish your interview with a positive statement.
Types of Question
There are some basic types of question the reporter will ask. The following guidance may help you.
"What do you know about..?" "Why have you..?" "Since when did you..?"
These are open questions which you should treat as a request for information. Give the information and nothing more. Try not to justify your answer at length, since this can lead to the reporter picking up information which leads to more difficult questions.
"Would you agree..?" "Is it not true that..?"
These are leading or closed questions which are intended to get you to say Yes. If you do not agree you should say No. If you are invited to give your opinion, do so and state the facts. Often the reporter's questions will be based on the opinion of other people that he has interviewed. He may use such questions to get you into an argument. Remind the reporter of the answers and the facts you have already given.
Follow the above guidelines and you should be well prepared for whatever the interview may bring.
You can make very good money as a self-employed PR consultant. Maple Academy (UK) runs a highly successful PR training course for anyone hoping to set up in this field. For full details, see http://www.mapleacademy.com