By Mark Macias
So you’ve been invited to speak on cable TV, or maybe your local TV station. Now what? How do you prepare for the interview so you make the biggest impression with your potential customers or clients?
Let’s assume for the sake of this article that you already have your messaging down. You know what to say and are prepared for the questions. You’ve got the basics down.
Now it’s time to fine tune the overall image. As a former Executive Producer with NBC, I didn’t pay attention to every segment and observe how the guests fared in their appearance. The newscast was moving too fast, and I didn’t get to always observe the nuances in real time.
But it’s different today. CNBC and CNN are always on in our office, and when an interesting expert or topic pops up, I pay attention. I’ve started to get annoyed with a lot of behaviors that don’t work well on TV. And as a result, I train my clients to avoid these behaviors when getting interviewed on live TV.
Here’s a closer look at those behaviors that don’t work on TV, despite the common perspective that it’s the right thing to do.
“Thanks for having me on.”
The typical live TV interview segment is roughly 2-3 minutes. And if you’re being interviewed as part of a group of 3 or 4, you can expect even less time to communicate your thoughts.
Producers always want to keep their newscast moving, and the cordial greeting actually slows down the speed. On the surface, it seems like the right thing to do. You’re projecting gratitude for being on their air, and it gives you a chance to connect with people who might be watching.
But it doesn’t work like that for the viewer, or the producer, especially on cable news where flow matters.
A few years ago, I worked with a hedge fund CEO who was interviewed by CNN in a live-to-tape interview. Essentially, they were interviewing him ‘live’ with the intention of doing no edits to the interview. The goal was to slip it into the newscast as a timely segment.
During our media training, my client kept starting the mock interview with “thank you for having me on your show.” I explained to him why he should jump into the answer that the host has because time was tight. He agreed, and avoided it for the rest of our media training.
But when the actual interview took place, he must have forgotten everything we discussed. He not only said “thank you for having me on” but he also added a long-winded “good morning” to the host. It might seem like minimal seconds, but the “good morning” threw the host off in the look live. The taping took place in the morning, but it was scheduled for later in the day. I’m sure the host knew that and as a result he was thrown off with the greeting that wouldn’t work for later in the day.
If a news anchor starts the interview with a question, give your answer out of the gate. The producer will appreciate it, and the viewer will be more focused on your answer.
Actively Listen to the Reporter’s Questions
We’ve become accustomed to politicians never answering the questions, and going right into their talking points. It’s important to have your messaging down, but if a reporter asks you a question: answer it. Don’t pivot to a talking point.
Everyday, I see inexperienced interview subjects not answer the questions from the journalist. And I can tell from watching that it isn’t an intentional pivot. Instead, they got lost in the moment of live TV and likely didn’t hear the entire question.
The TV host won’t intentionally make you look unknowledgeable as their expert, so if you’re actively listening, you should be able to answer the question. But if you don’t know the answer, it’s okay. Be honest, and say you don’t know the details for that question. At least, it will tell the viewers that you are listening, and that’s not an area of expertise for you.
Look Directly at the Camera During Interview
Cable news is broadcasting more Zoom interviews and that won’t change in the future. If you’re doing the interview at your computer, make sure you look at your computer’s camera. It also helps to move your computer camera farther back than usual.
Most computer monitors are within eyesight, but for TV, that might be too close for the interview. If you’re too close to the camera, the directors inside the control room won’t be able to zoom out of the interview. However, they can always zoom in.
Or in simple terms, if you’re farther away from the camera, the director can frame the shot in real time, so you look better. But if you’re too close to the camera, there’s really nothing to do to make your head look smaller.
And throw out the swivel chair, while you’re at it. It might be comfortable during the work day but if you’re doing a live interview, it only increases your chances that you will be a moving target on TV.
Want to read the biggest mistakes publicists make? Click here to read that insight.
ABOUT MACIAS PR
Marketing peers named MACIAS PR the 2017-2021 Strategic PR Firm of the Year. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Finance Monthly named MACIAS PR the Financial PR Firm of the Year. The founder – Mark Macias – is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. City & State Magazine named him a PR Political Power Player in 2021.