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How to deal with broadcast interviews

Do your homework

Before accepting an interview opportunity, it is important to make sure that you understand the programme, the style of interviews they do and the audience. This will help you decide whether you wish to accept the offer and help you better prepare for the interview. For controversial subjects, it may be better to send a written statement than present a spokesman for interview if you feel it will give you a better chance of controlling your message.

Key questions to ask about the interview:

  • Will the interview be pre-recorded or broadcast live?
  • The length of the interview.
  • Will it be conducted in the studio or over the telephone?
  • Contact details for the journalist (in case the interview gets rearranged).
  • Who will be involved – just you and the journalist or will anyone else be involved? This is particularly important if the interview is on a controversial subject as the broadcaster will always look to have guests representing both sides of the story.
  • If the interview involves a third party, ask who and what their angle on the story is.
  • It is fine to ask the journalist what questions they are planning to put to you. It is certainly a good idea to ask what the first question will be.

Preparation is key

Prepare for the interview by rehearsing your key messages, try to create soundbites (pithy comments). Most broadcast interviews are relatively short and you may well only get asked two questions.
As a result, you need to think about your key messages and try to get them in early in case the interviewer doesn’t come back to you with more questions.

Think about the tricky questions. Broadcasters will tend to put the other side of your argument across to be sure they are balancing the story, therefore you should expect some firm questioning and practice your answers.

Conducting the interview

  • Make your answers stand-alone, avoid repeating the question back to the interviewer or say in your answer that you want to make three points – you may find you run out of time to get all your points across.
  • Avoid ‘umms’ and ‘arrrs’.
  • Don’t feel that you have to fill in awkward silences left by the interview – some use this as a technique to get you to say more than you intended to.
  • For TV interviews – think about your body language. Keep eye contact with the interviewer, don’t look at the camera. Shifty eyes make you look shifty! Similarly, sit still, try not to rock or shuffle about. Dress smartly and don’t wear anything distracting. Avoid clothing with small stripes and checks which will cause ‘strobing’ on TV.