It can be daunting giving an interview for the first time and there are different rules that apply depending on whether you’re appearing on TV or radio or speaking to a journalist for print or online.
I often take new or upcoming artists through a media training session to teach them some tips and tricks on how to conduct yourself in an interview, so that it’s a successful outcome for whatever you’re trying to promote.
Hopefully this advice will come in handy for you too. Obviously it’s skewed toward media interviews but these tips will also serve you well in all manner of communications – at a job interview, making new acquaintances or when meeting your potential in-laws for the first time.
How to get the RIGHT message across?
You’re the one in control. The journalist or presenter may ask the questions but it’s you who will steer the conversation to where you want to take it.
1. Decide on your key messages.
2. Turn them into concise sentences.
3. Practice them out aloud (or in front of a mirror for TV or, better yet, film yourself and play back).
4. Listen to them and decide if your tone is interesting and uplifting, if it’s not, try and make it so (within reason for your personality – don’t try and be someone else – just an improved version of you!)
Preparation for radio, television, print and online and how these differ
- Radio and TV are generally fast paced – you’ll get a three-five minute segment for TV and a five-ten min segment for radio. It’s vital that you’re concise.
- Print is a little more leisurely BUT, depending on the scruples of the journalist, what you say may be taken out of context and used in a way you never intended, so care is required.
- Online interviews will either take on the form of a print story, will be filmed like a TV interview or, sometimes, both. Use the advice for print and TV here.
- Never assume that an interviewer knows anything about you. Journalists are some of the most time-poor people on the planet and there’s a chance that they’ve not researched you and are looking to you to tell them everything. Even if the interviewer does know your backstory and your product or service, their reader, listener or viewer DOES NOT! so tell them!
To gather yourself before you start speaking:
1. Pause for a moment so you have time to think about what you’ll say and the order in which youÃ’ll say it.
2. Concentrate as you speak so that every word said should be there. Make every word count. If it’s unnecessary (not a key message), don’t let it come out of your mouth.
Interview tips: the do’s and dont’s
- Do listen to you voice. Is it too high, too low, too monotone? Put yourself in the shoes of the listener and create a pleasant experience for them.
- Do practice speaking clearly and articulately, making sure you say the consonants, particularly at the ends of your words. While you still want to sound like yourself and don’t want you to lose your own distinct accent, your audience still needs to easily understand what you’re saying. This is obviously more important for TV, radio and filmed online, but it’s still important for print. If you have clear, expressive enunciation you will be a much more convincing and engaging interviewee.
- Do practice some more! Make every conversation you have with anyone clear and concise (at the shops, with your manager, at home etc). This will train you to quickly come up with an interesting answer and, ultimately, to stay on message when you’re being interviewed.
- Do explain yourself – always assume that your interviewer and their readers / listeners / viewers donÃ’t know what your project is about.
They don’t know that you studied for years to get to this point in your career or business.
They don’t know who the amazing Nashville producer who worked on your album is.
They don’t know your cake decorating is inspired by the art of Monet .
They don’t know that you’ve travelled to 27 different countries.
As long as it pertains to your key messages, all of this is interesting and informative and if you deliver it correctly, it will make you an entertaining interviewee that will make you sound great and someone who media will want to speak to again.
- Don’t expect the interviewer to lead you in the direction you want the interview to go. They generally don’t care about your key messages so you need to be conscious of guiding them i.e. if they ask why you decided to start your own day care centre, tell them about the lack of quality day care centres, how this affects working families, how you then help these families and change their lives for the better, your years of experience and education in this area and, of course, the name of your centre and it’s web address.
- Don’t touch your hair or face – keep your hands in your lap or on the table in front of you. If , for example, you’re a musician and are holding your guitar, only play it if you’re performing or showing an example from a song, don’t strum or pick at it as it is distracting.
- Don’t be late to an interview. And when I say don’¢t, I mean NEVER.
- Don’t be rude, arrogant or condescending.
As with everything, first impressions count; great hair, face shaven for blokes and good posture (don’t slouch) will all help. Maintain steady eye-contact and throw in consistent, friendly smiles (without grinning madly of course) and you will always win anyone over.
The media landscape is ever changing and a big part of a publicist’s very busy job is to keep across these changes. This means understanding the alliances between the different outlets and knowing about and responding to the current viewer, reader and listenership figures and what kinds of people these are. Then there’s weighing up the consequences, both now and in the longterm, of every interview undertaken. But that’s a whole different article in itself; More on that soon!