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Live at 5 - Handling The TV Interview

By: Andy Marken

In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Whether you go to their studio or the camera crew simply arrives at your front door there's nothing that fully prepares management for the TV interview.

You're so busy today running the company, planning new products/services or winning sales; it is difficult to perform with grace and poise when a television reporter steps in front of you with a microphone to ask about your stock performance, an environmental issue, layoffs or other "news" item. While senior management in any organization today should have interview coaching here are some easy to remember and follow steps you can take yourself to present the company and yourself as favorably as possible.

Don't just take our word on the following guidelines. Someone in the organization will have a video camera so do a few test interviews with your management team just so they can see how they present themselves.

More Than Talking Heads

Take time to study the people who are interviewed on TV. They are seldom just talking heads. The camera usually captures the person from the waist up.

The worst thing you can do is let your arms fall straight down to your side. You look stiff, insecure, anxious. Instead, bend your elbows so your hands are waist high. Let them float against your body or loosely clasp them. This may not feel natural but on screen it looks very natural. Or to help you relax, casually grabbing hold of something with your elbows bent. It does wonders in controlling the jitters.

Smile, Relax

This sounds simple and logical but it is easier said than done. Before you step before the camera close your eyes, take 5-10 very deep breaths and focus. People use all sorts of tricks to get past the anxiety including looking right thru the camera to mentally picture friends and family on the other side.

If a reporter is interviewing you then give them 100% of your attention and ignore the camera. Look into his or her eyes and give the reporter your undivided attention. You'll come off looking more natural and more credible.

Body Language, Voice

The TV camera does an excellent job of capturing body language. Practice good posture and be expressive with your hands. Being stiff or slumped with the arms at your side sends a totally negative message. You appear guarded or defeated when the lens in this manner captures you so even the best words are mistrusted.

Speak in a strong, measured rhythm and avoid stammering as much as possible. Mumbling or hesitation helps you come across as weak or indecisive sending the wrong message to the audience.

Keep your body language and your vocal presence in tune.

Control Your Timing

Don't rush through the interview and don't let the reporter rush you. Control the situation by speaking slowly, pleasantly, clearly and concisely. People who rush through the interviews often realize they have talked before they thought and what was said (and captured) isn't what was meant. Think in terms of strong, positive and active sound bytes and control your timing…don't let the reporter control you.

Time Your Message

Even if the camera crew and reporter simply show up at your front door you don't have to immediately respond. If this is a scheduled interview then you should have prepared and committed to memory your 2-3 key messages. Trying to list more messages during the interview simply means you will dilute, confuse or even lose your key message.

When you are asked a question, answer it but if at all possible steer the discussion back to your key points.

If the interview is unplanned - an accident, sudden product recall or disaster - you still don't have to respond immediately. Quickly confer with other executives and experts and prepare your key points/messages in real-time. Having the interviewers wait for five-ten minutes while you become properly prepared and focus on the results you want to walk away from the interview leaving the right message.

When you begin, give the camera (and reporter) your undivided attention and remember it isn't over until the mike and camera are safely packed away. Don't think the interview is over and then make an off-the-cuff comment or big sigh of relief. It could come back to haunt you.

Even a little preparation will help you ensure your company and you look good.

Home Court Advantage

Unless you've had exhaustive Television training, a TV interview is going to be a little uncomfortable but you should still control the situation.

You can control the situation. It's your offices so you have home court advantage. You can choose the background and seating area that bests presents the company and makes you feel most comfortable. Just remember you are in the conference room, your office or your lobby all of the time so don't let them "suggest" the right location. Own the situation.

Before the camera crew marches into your lobby do some rehearsal with fellow executives. Your organization (or one of your team) has a camcorder. Set aside a few hours to prepare for the unexpected with all of your senior people and yourself. Do a couple of mock interviews then grab some popcorn and do an informal critique. Three or four sessions like this and the team - and you - are prepared for your few minutes in front of the camera.

With a little practice you'll be prepared for the unexpected.

© Copyright 2003, G.A.Marken, Marken Communications

Other Articles by Andy Marken

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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