Broadcast media training: Nailing the interview

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Broadcast media training for Executives

Taking part in a television interview is really exciting. A successful TV interview is great for your organisation’s public relations. But what are the things you need to watch out for, and how should you prepare in advance? It’s a very good idea to do some broadcast media training before you get in front of a camera.

I’ve put some top tips for television success together below. If you’ve got any questions or thoughts – let me know below in the comments.

Figure out what the journalist wants

Before the interview, ask yourself why the journalist has chosen to interview you on this topic – what is their angle? What tone does the show generally take? Who watches it? Typically, an interviewee must provide one of the following:

  • Something different: A new or unique take on a current affairs topic
  • Authority: Are you an expert on this topic?
  • Controversy: Agreement rarely makes the news
  • Human interest: Were you directly impacted by the story being reported?
  • A scapegoat: Are you or your company at fault in this story?
  • Shock: Do you have information no one else has made public that would cause shock?

Tip! Journalists like comparisons – bigger, better, worse, unique, unusual, unexpected; these words set clear positions out and put them in context.

Prepare

Once you’re clear on what your role is, identify key messages you want to get across about yourself or your organisation. Repeat and rehearse them. Role-play likely questions with a colleague and get plenty of practice in answering them. It’s always useful to have some impressive numbers to hand – make sure you have some interesting statistics or impressive figures to draw on during the interview.

Control the interview

Set your stall out from the beginning: “There are three points I want to make here.”

Don’t let the journalist railroad you – they may ask questions you’re not comfortable answering, and a skilled interviewer may ask the same question a number of times in different ways. Rehearse using ‘bridges’ to respond to a question in a way you feel comfortable with.

Here are some examples:

  • “The important thing to remember here is that…”
  • “Those are your words, not mine – but what I can say is…”
  • “It is worth pointing out that…” 

Tip! Being unflustered speaks volumes – make sure your tone of voice is measured, and that you are speaking at an appropriate volume and speed. Stay controlled and professional.

Getting your point across

Remember that you’re the expert. Stick to the facts, and don’t allow yourself to be drawn into speculation – this could be held against you at a later date. Show that you understand the context of the story, and how your position impacts others who are involved. Don’t let inaccuracies go, but don’t repeat them either. Once again, bridges can be useful here, for example:

  • “That is not my understanding of the situation, but what I can tell you is this…”

Tip! If possible, have a chat with the interviewer off-air before the interview starts to get a clear idea of what he or she is looking for.

If it’s your first television interview, watch this video:

Remember, unless you’re a politician of business leader at the centre of a scandal, most journalists are not there to trip you up. Their goal is to produce high-quality content that is interesting for their viewers. If you can help to provide that, you’re sure to be invited back again in the future.

What broadcast media training tools have you tried and loved? Did you find this post helpful? Leave us a comment with any questions or thoughts and we’ll get back to you.

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About Wilde Words 46 Articles
With more than a decade of international experience in journalism, communications and media relations, I add value to organisations by creating exceptional content for a range of internal and external channels, and managing brand reputation through establishing best-practice crisis communications protocols.

14 Comments on Broadcast media training: Nailing the interview

  1. I’m not so sure I agree with some of these points. I’ve done media for more than 25 years, as a journalist, national spokesperson and lately as instructor. For example, if you say (as in the article) “That is not my understanding of the situation, but what I can tell you is this…” you invite a “why don’t you understand” reaction. Never start your comments with a negative. You could say, “A better question would be …” or “A better way to look at this is …” And regarding “what the journalist wants” the very first item should be authority, credibility, believability and evidence. “Something different” simply invites the outrageous and out-there bombast that a Donald Trump has mastered. “Scapegoating” and “shock” simply invite disbelief.

    • Thanks for your thoughts. “That is not my understanding” doesn’t mean you don’t understand – it means you’ve taken a different interpretation. But I take your point, the examples you’ve given do the same job in a more positive way.

      As for what a journalist wants, your points are absolutely correct if you’re being interviewed on a serious news show – but if you’re being interviewed on E or MTV, there’s every chance the journalist is looking for something a bit scandalous rather than evidence-based answers!

  2. Tip! Being unflustered speaks volumes – make sure your tone of voice is measured, and that you are speaking at an appropriate volume and speed. Stay controlled and professional.

    Here you said the most important thing anyone will be required to do for any interview.

  3. Great tips. I’m looking forward to starting to do some press for my blog. I’ll have to refer back to this article when it comes time to do my interviews. 🙂

  4. A lot of prep goes into interviews and if you’re the one on the spotlight, it’s good to be ready for the questions as well. I like that you mentioned that they should think about why the journalist chose them for the given topic. These are all very good tips!

  5. When/if a journalist asks you as to whether “your understanding about 2×2 equals to 4”, then your answer such as “That is not my understanding of the situation, but what I can tell you is this…”, can easily make the journalist understand that you do not have the basic knowledge in the subject matter, which is more than enough to spoil the reputation of the institution on behalf of which you represent. (Here, 2×2=4 is just an example).

    Your answers such as, “Those are your words, not mine – but what I can say is…” may help you to escape from a lawsuit, but if “what you can say” is redundant to the context at hand, then the press (journalist) may not look at you, next time.

    On the other hand, “having a chat with the interviewer off-air before the interview”, can just be an opportunity which may not happen prior to very press-meet. It is something like, trying to peep into the question paper, prior to the examination. Provided further, more you get used to this kind of opportunities (shortcuts), the more you let go the command.

    If I may have to express my opinion here, then, with due respect, I would like to point out that, you (the author) looked to have tried to jumble-up some of the ingredients of the Public Speaking skills, into the topic of “facing a press-meet”. In anyway, unlike in the Public Speaking act, “controlling the interview” is not necessarily a mandate in press-meets. On the other hand, a press-meet is not a cross-examination either. Therefore you have all the liberty to answer (or) as to how to answer (or) to refuse to answer (or) as to how smoothly to refuse to answer. Therefore in my opinion, “facing a press-meet” does not really require any special skill or additional training. Rather, it requires thorough knowledge in the subject matter at hand, and the “maneuverability” to answer. While the maneuverability should mostly be the instinct (or) spontaneous, knowledge in the subject matter normally comes from the experience.

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