Our world is becoming more and more media savvy and it’s now becoming imperative that each of us has a handle on how to deal with video or TV interviews. They may run on YouTube or on our intranet sites, or on local or national TV. But more and more, companies understand their need to stand up and get ready for their next appearance. It can mean millions in your pocket if you succeed, and a catastrophe if you don’t.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been on many sides of the media. I’ve done a little or a lot of every bit of it – from anchoring, reporting and producing to hosting and to being a guest. I’ve been on everything from ABC’s 20/20, Dateline and The Today Show to QVC. I’ve come across all sorts of producers, hosts and bookers. It’s always good to have an edge so here are some of the tips I’ve shared with the CEOs, authors, experts and spokespeople I’ve coached.

Find out as much as you can about the host before you go on the air. There is absolutely NO guarantee that you’ll be able to even say hi to the host of your segment before you go on the air if it’s live, but there is usually about a minute before the cameras come on that you can actually change the flow of the energy of the interview by commenting about something personal to the host of your segment. For instance, if you know that they’ve supported Breast Cancer Awareness as their personal cause, a quick mention of it will ingratiate you to the host who may or may have not taken a hard line with you before the interview. These people are pros and can go with the flow, and that is one way for YOU to be in charge! IF you are booking the segment yourself, do the research on all of the reporters/anchors bios in advance because you do not know who will actually conduct the in studio interview.
Know your message inside and out. If you have something controversial to say, you’re probably going to be more of interest to the media in the first place. However, you are also more of a target for the anchor to show you up. They can and will pull tricks on you at the last possible minute if they’re personally not in favor of your position. I’ve seen it happen numerous times. They act extremely passive or friendly to the guest before air time and the second the camera goes on, their energy triples which is enough to make anyone jump out of their seat, and then they are on the attack. These are things that a media expert grows accustomed to, however, for a newbie, it’s extremely intimidating.
With your message, drill in your head three main points that you’d like to get across. It’s quite possible that your interviewer will not follow the original questions that you MUST provide to the producer of the segment. If you’re an author, something else might catch the attention of the anchor that may go down a totally different path. Keep in mind, you are there to inform, to educate or to influence behavior, so your goal will be to bring your answer back to your main three points. Watching political candidates will give you a great model of how to do that. They often dodge difficult questions and pound home the points THEY want to get. For the listener, this can be frustrating, but for the guest whose job it is to use that 2 minutes as effectively as possible, it is imperative that he gets the sound bites in that he or she desires.
Realize that if you’re hemming and hawing for one to two seconds in the beginning of the segment that the anchor probably will cut you off. Their job is to keep the interview engaging and informative and if the guest gets their brain stuck looking for words, the anchor will act as if the guest just said the most brilliant thing in the world yet cut you off immediately. This is why you must know your message and push it through from the beginning.
Live TV can throw anyone off if you’re not aware of all of the distractions that are likely to occur. When the camera turns on you, all you focus on is YOUR MESSAGE. It doesn’t matter if there is a bomb going off in the studio or someone starts yelling. Your job is to continue with what you are saying. This takes practice in front of a camera with obstacles happening to intend on cutting you off or tripping you up. This is not what an anchor wants of course, however, no one can control whether or not the next segment has to do with a crying baby, a yelping dog or a machine that goes off at the wrong moment.
Your job is to bring value! When a reporter starts interviewing you, you need to be thinking about delivering information that will be of value to your customers, and NOT be thinking about promoting your product or your services. If you’re good at what you do, people will find you and the producers will provide your resources to their viewers. Do NOT promote yourself in any way unless it’s for a cause and at the end of the segment or if you are asked to mention your website or phone numbers.
Look at the reporter or the host. How many times have you seen “media professionals” take over from the host and start to talk to the camera? That is an absolute NO NO! If you are the host, then you can look in the camera, however if you are there as the guest, be respectful of the rightful host and look at the host and NOT THE CAMERA!
Be clear what your intention for the audience to do is. For instance, do you want them to take action? Why? How can they do it? If your job is to influence them, then you must appeal to both sides of their brain when doing it. Do not just give an opinion. Give a statement of fact along with your opinion backed up by hard core stats. This will make you sound more prepared and articulate. Additionally, request that people take action and give them easy steps, 1, 2, and 3.
Get your point across quickly. This is likely one of the most difficult things to do. Many people are not trained to articulate their main points in 20-30 seconds but when dealing with TV, you are shooting for the pithy SOUND BITE. These sound bites can be 10-15 seconds long so it would be wise to write these in advance and practice accordingly.
Work with a media coach. This is your best chance to become more familiar with the tactics and techniques used by some of the anchors. Some people are fine when standing before an audience, yet once the camera turns on, they freeze. A media coach will size you up from your clothes to your message, and they’ll engage you in different situations over and over so when the real interview happens, you will be an old pro.

No one knows when a producer or reporter might be calling them for a tip or a statement. On the other hand, if you’re seeking press, it’s best to be prepared for whatever comes along. Regardless, we are now a media driven society, and its time to step up to the plate, smile and give it your best shot. Hopefully you’ll be prepared and not strike out, but strike gold!