If there is one thing I’ve learned doing media interviews and teaching people how to do it, it’s expect the unexpected. You really have to be prepared for anything. When my clients land media interviews, we always do media training beforehand. I go over questions that could be asked.
Specifically for television, I talk about how to lead an interview if the host is having an off day and isn’t taking you through the segment. How to politely break in and be heard if the host is dominating the interview. At the end of the day, you want to be prepared for any scenario that could arise so you can take full advantage of your interview.
This week was big news in the branding, marketing and PR space when the Washington Redskins decided to change their name due to ongoing pressure from American Indian groups and most recently their corporate sponsors. (This is the perfect example of Newsjacking) My inbox was flooded with interview requests asking for my opinion on the matter. Because of the timeliness of the story, it literally all came in late on Monday morning. Of course I said “Yes” to all of the requests. Luckily I live in the D.C. area so I’m very familiar with the story, but I did some additional research, took a quick shower and put on my television makeup.
Because of COVID, we’re still filming television remotely so I set up my in-home studio and waited for the Zoom link to arrive. As you can see, there is nothing glamorous about the set-up. My kids are grown but I still use old books and puzzle boxes to get the camera to eye-level. I use a folded up ping pong table to get the spot light in front of me so I’m well lit. And I use an old bar side table from our Virginia Tech tailgates to set up on.
Look closely though… do you see my computer screen. I can see me but where the host is supposed to be is black. I could hear him but I couldn’t see him. Although I would be looking at the camera versus my screen anyway, it was a bit unnerving to not have anything there. This is where preparation comes in and confidence and you just have to make it work. This is how the finished product ended up but I had no idea while I was recording.
Moral of the story is practice, practice, practice. Have your soundbites ready. Know your subject matter. Be comfortable in front of a blank screen. Big tip here is pretend you’re talking to a friend. Just like when you’re creating videos and just looking at a little circle on your laptop or phone, it’s the same for a remote television interview. When you can nail an interview like this and do a great job for the host, they’ll have you back again and again.