Handling the Media

by Jennifer Stenhouse

Interview tips

TV and radio have many similarities, but there are differences worth noting.

Radio tips

  • Maintain eye contact with the interviewer.
  • Watch for clues as to how the interview is going – such as whether you are being boring (you might see the interviewer’s eyes glaze over ...) or whether the interview is about to end.
  • Watching the interviewer also helps you to sound as though you are talking to a real person, which the listener will tap into.
  • The odd umm and err is fine – that’s how we talk and few listeners even notice it.
  • Leave your notes outside the studio proper. They rustle, and if your head’s down as you read them, you’re not projecting.

TV tips

  • Keep eye contact with your interviewer – not the camera – and try to keep your eyes steady.
  • On TV, moving your eyes too much can make you look shifty.
  • Normal hand movements are fine and look natural.
  • Always leave your notes outside the studio.
  • Dazzle with your smile, where appropriate. That has a twofold effect. It relaxes you and allows your audience to warm to you.

On location

If you are being filmed at a location outside a studio, be aware of the backdrop.

  • If it is your office, make sure it is tidy and as unobtrusive as possible.
  • Have the telephone switched through to someone else so that the ringing tone doesn’t interrupt filming.
  • Your desk will ideally be neither totally empty, nor collapsing under the weight of too much paperwork.
  • If you’re outside, make sure it’s not too noisy. If you have to shout over the background noise, you’ll sound less authoritative.
  • Make sure the backdrop complements your authority. Avoid being filmed next to an exit sign or a sign for the toilets.

If you’re sitting down, make sure you’re comfortable. Avoid revolving chairs. It’s difficult to resist a swivel, especially when you are nervous. Sit square on the chair, with your bottom tucked well in the back.

Absolute don’ts

If you ask for any of the following, you’re likely to get the brush-off as it’s generally acknowledged you have no right to them:

  • A transcript or copy of the interview before it is published
  • A detailed list of questions before the interview (even if you are given one, no self-respecting journalist will stick to the list)
  • Veto over certain questions (a sure way of being asked them)
  • A say in where and when your interview will appear. Journalists guard their autonomy fiercely.

Generally, a positive approach to the media will work in your favour. Look on every media encounter as an opportunity.

  • Make sure your message clearly says what you want.
  • Always say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Be positive – and use positive language throughout.