Handling the Media

by Jennifer Stenhouse

What to wear

What we say beyond words is an important part of communicating our message. In fact, a huge proportion of what we communicate is non-verbal. A number of factors will contribute to how people relate to us, including tone of voice, micro-movements and general looks, as well as clothes and make-up. On the whole, the more relaxed, congruent and authentic you are, the more likely you are to make a good impression.

If you’re going to appear on camera regularly, check your image – hair, clothes and make-up – and adjust it if necessary.


There are a few general points relating to TV to take on board.

When dressing for television, it is important that you consolidate your message with the way you look. Remember, TV distorts and there isn’t much time to convince people you are worth listening to.

If you’re a bank manager, you might not be appropriately dressed in a T-shirt and jeans. If you wish to look authoritative, dress according to your profession and standing. This will add credibility to your role as a spokesperson and also allows your audience to pay attention without the distraction of thinking ‘He (or she) doesn’t look like a bank manager.’ You want them to listen to you, not notice your clothes.

Wear comfortable clothes that fit and are appropriate. This will help your confidence, as you will be able to concentrate on your performance rather than, say, your pinching shoes or waistband.

Brush your hair and check your appearance – it’s not vanity, just common sense.

Always say ‘Yes, please!’ to an offer of make-up to reduce the shine and improve your appearance under the lights. That goes for both men and women!


Dark colours (navy blue, charcoal and grey) tend to carry more authority than light colours. There are some colours to avoid:

  • Black drains colour from the face in the TV lights and on screen, and there is a tendency for details, such as lapels and buttons, to disappear
  • White glares – cream is a better option
  • Very bright colours, such as shocking pink or red, can ‘bleed’ on screen
  • Very busy patterns on ties and blouses can be distracting
  • Checks or herring-bone patterns tend to ‘strobe’ on screen.

For men

Fashions change and these days less formal wear is more acceptable in a formal context. You are ultimately the one to decide what look to go for, but below are some clothing tips about what does and does not work for men on TV.

  • Wear plain, pastel-coloured, long-sleeved shirts underneath a suit jacket.
  • A suit jacket with no shirt sleeve peeking out at the end can look incongruous.
  • A sweater under your jacket looks nerdish and odd.
  • Knee-length dark socks do away with the chance of the public seeing an expanse of white hairy leg in a full-length shot of you seated.
  • Black plain shoes are discreet and un-noteworthy, which is a plus here.
  • Make your tie neatly touch your trouser waistband.
  • Make-up – always accept it if offered. Studio lights can be hot and this will reduce the shine of perspiration as well as giving your face contours.

For women

  • A well-tailored suit will always look good and can hide any contours that you might not want to have exaggerated by TV.
  • A trouser suit is ideal, in that you never have to worry about skirt lengths, the wind blowing skirts up or tights laddering. It can also add to your authority.
  • Plain, unfussy necklines keep people’s attention on you and what you’re saying.
  • Wear little jewellery – nothing too shiny that will distract.
  • Stud earrings are on the whole better than obtrusive, dangly ones: many’s the time I have been transfixed by a woman’s earrings on TV and completely missed what she was saying as a result!
  • Make-up – use just enough to accentuate your best features and put some colour in your cheeks. However if you’re offered make-up at a studio, accept it. The make-up people know what works under those lights