So, you’ve been invited to take part in a TV or documentary, and you haven’t had any media training before? That’s fine. These five tips will help you to make the most of your opportunity in front of the camera (or microphone!).
Know Your Rights
You have plenty of rights under UK broadcasting rules and regulations. You have a right to know who is going to do the interview, how your contribution is going to be used, and whether you’re a general or expert contributor.
You also have a right to know the areas you are expected to cover, whether you or your organisation is under scrutiny and what the allegations are.
If you’re being asked to respond to a critic, you have a right to know exactly who they are and what they’re saying.
You also have a right to determine the logistics: you can choose the location and time of your interviews, you can set the start and finish time, and you can even record the interview yourself.
Once you have established all of the above, you can start preparing yourself – and what you’re going to say – ahead of the big interview.
Prepare What You Want to Say
If you’ve been invited to contribute to a documentary, its fair to assume that you know a lot about the issues under debate.
Sir Winston Churchill once said that if you wanted him to talk about the war for three hours, he could start straight away; but if you wanted him to talk about the war for three minutes, then he’d have to prepare. Decide in advance the sort of thing you’d like to hear and see yourself saying, once your interview has gone through the editing process. Remember that you won’t be given any editorial control, and no final say over what is used and what isn’t. The only way you can influence this, is to decide before the interview what you’d like to say – and stick to it.
That’s not to say you should just parrot the same words again and again. Think of a couple of big ideas you’d like to get across. A well-made point, and a single reason is good enough. Your experience and expertise will mean you can change the reasons.
However, if you talk through a couple of big idea, which it comes to the editing process, the most important point you wanted to raise may not actually be used.
Know the Advantages of a Recorded Interview
There are many advantages to having your interview recorded, as opposed to it being broadcast live. For a start, when you’re asked a question, you don’t need to leap in and answer it. You can pause, take time to reflect, and think about what you really want to say.
Recorded interviews for documentaries are like pub quizzes: the questions can range over a whole raft of subjects and topics, in detail and at length. But, unlike pub quizzes, you don’t get a point for getting the right answer. As an expert contributor it’s likely that you’ll know the answer to just about every question put to you. That doesn’t mean it’s in your interests to answer it perfectly, in depth, with much supporting evidence.
Remember your preparation. What do you want to hear and see yourself saying? Keep that at the front of your mind. You can ask them to stop recording if you’d like some more time to think about your answer. One of the biggest pieces of advice when it comes to media training is this: if you find yourself rambling, stop the recording. Whilst you may not be able to get out of answering the question, you’ll have a second chance to get your response right.
Decide What to Wear and Where to Sit
Body language is so important, as is how and where you appear in an interview. Perception is everything: if you are being invited to be interviewed somewhere controversial, you have the right to say no. Being interviewed from behind a desk gives the impression of distance. Being interviewed in a plush corporate office suggests aloofness, arms folded defensive, finger pointing aggression – there are so many ways your body language can be misconstrued.
Make sure you always think about the audience: how do you want to be perceived? Suggest the location of where you want to be to the documentary-makers.
When it comes to media training, it’s not just knowing what to say and how to say it, but knowing what to wear too. You should make sure that your outfit is appropriate for the location you’re in. Sure, a linen suit may be fine if you’re being interviewed in a vineyard in France, but it’s not so good if you’re standing outside a factory in Leeds.
The old maxim holds: you get one chance to make a first impression. The audience will make up their minds about you in approximately a second and a half. Make sure their impression is one of trust. Otherwise it doesn’t matter what you say, as they’re either not listening, or not believing.
Mind Your Language
Even if you are being invited to make a contribution about black holes and string theory (no, me neither) the average broadcast audience on radio and TV is a general audience. The language they use is conversational English. And so, while giving an interview to a documentary maker is certainly not a conversation, the language of your contribution must be conversational.
Don’t use industry speak, three letter acronyms, long and complex sentences and don’t ever, write out what you want to say in advance and then regurgitate it word for word. Written English is not speaking out loud English. Decide what you want to say – and then say it to your mum, dad, son, daughter, best friend. If they understand it, then the audience will.
These five tips form the basis of media training, and can really help when you’re contributing to a recorded documentary. By following these, not only will you be prepared for your upcoming interview, but you can relax in front of the microphone too.
If you’d like to undergo some media training – whether it’s for TV, radio, print, crisis management or more – we can help! Alternatively, for more information on corporate communications, head on over to our website.