TV news interviews – Making the most of them
By Toss Gascoigne
The use of video is exploding on new media and the outlets are multiplying.
Traditional media, with reporter and camera operator? Disappearing quickly but the fundamentals remain sound. Here are seven tips for television news interviews:
- Know why you want to use the media. It’s not cost-free, so have a reason firmly in mind.
- You’re talking to the public (which includes funders, policy-makers, colleagues, as well as Betty from Blacktown), so focus on HOW this work will affect their daily lives.
- What do you want to say? Work that out before you start talking, and make sure you weave it into the interview.
- Always give the journalist something in writing. It sets out the story the way you think it should be told, and helps prevent errors in the reports.
- Prepare. Work out how to explain complex ideas using simple analogies. Think in dollar terms. Can you tell the story in three key points?
- Rehearse. It may be short but it’s not easy.
- In the interview, begin by explaining the point of the story in a couple of sentences. Stick to the main point. Don’t stray – you need to be disciplined.
- Best style for video? Friendly, informal, knowledgeable, enthusiastic.
Where do you look? When you’re talking, only into the eyes of the journalist. If the journalist is in another studio, look where the camera operator says, or down the barrel of the lens.
Can’t answer a question? Be honest, explain why (“not my area, results aren’t in yet, a policy matter you should address to the CEO”); and then add “But what I can say…” and bring out one of your points.
Think about what picture opportunities you can offer: laboratories, experimental sites, interesting machines. Make sure they’re accessible and suggest this as a meeting place for the interview.
Who can tell your story from another perspective? Someone who will benefit from the research: a medical patient, an environmentalist, a farmer. Reporters want a second perspective and they’re busy, so if you can organise a second talent and good pictures, they will love you.
Most of the above applies to YouTube, blogs, and other social media. Humour works, too.