Former journalist provides tips on how to give a successful TV interview.

Crisis communication Reputation management

Giving a good interview is not easy. Especially not when it is your first one. But then again: it’s not rocket science either. Just be aware that the journalist also wants a good story and he therefore needs some good quotes. So, be open to suggestions on how to do that, but decide for yourself what you really want to tell. And keep in mind that the journalist and you are partners, not enemies. Here are some other important tips

Try not to be overly defensive.

It’s the journalists’ job to ask difficult questions. But that doesn’t make them difficult people. Take the time to break the ice before the interview starts. Have a chat about the day’s news, for example, or the previous night’s football match. This will make you more comfortable when you get to the ‘on the record’ portion of the discussion. And don’t forget: the sting is in the tail! Hence the trickiest questions are usually left to the end, so don’t let your guard down.

Measure the length of your quotes.

A report in a TV news show is rarely longer than 2 minutes. This means that a journalist will choose two 20-30 second quotes, at best. So make sure that your answers aren’t too long. Otherwise, they may well be cut during editing. And you’ll lose control of the communication.

Keep the message simple.

No matter how well-informed you are about the subject at hand, the average viewer will have little prior knowledge. So don’t overcomplicate the story. Too many details don’t work, as your story will get bogged down in them.

Set 3 key messages and practise them.

Make sure you know, in advance, which key messages must be contained within the story, i.e. your answers. Practise expressing these messages with a colleague or on your own, in the mirror. Set up a Q&A too (or ask your advisers to do so). 

Think about the interview’s location.

A small office should be avoided because the camera operator needs space to frame the picture. Hold the interview outdoors or let the journalists record additional shots in a production hall, where there’s a bit of activity. Or in an office, where people are working. This adds dynamism. You can also provide your own images. But ideally, these should be raw images, i.e. unedited.

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