Your company made headlines with a recent announcement and the media wants to hear about it directly from your spokesperson.
Before you break out the champagne, you need to start preparing your spokesperson for their five minutes of fame to ensure they are on message and don't flounder if tough questions are asked. As former United States vice-president, Hubert Humphrey once said: "It's always a risk to speak to the press; they are likely to report what you say."
Preparation is important for all media interviews, however, speaking on camera elevates this need even further, especially if the interview is on live TV. Your spokesperson will have minimal time to get their message out effectively, could be put on the spot with challenging questions, and his/her appearance must be polished and professional to come across as credible and trustworthy.
Follow these best practices before and during an on-camera interview to set your spokesperson up for success:
1. Do your homework: before the interview, make sure your spokesperson studies their key messages and reviews answers to anticipated questions. If you are dreading a tough question, make that a key focus of the preparation. As the saying goes, "if you dread it, expect it." And remember to research the reporter and media outlet in advance to get a feel for their interview style.
2. Look in the mirror: before going on camera put your spokesperson in front of a mirror to see if there is anything distracting about their appearance or could make them not 'look the part'? Avoid shirts or ties with a wild or striped pattern. If they are wearing makeup (which I recommend), ensure it's polished and not too heavy, and do a check for any food stuck in their teeth.
3. Don't fidget: swaying in a chair, poor handling of props or products, looking off camera, fixing their hair, or nodding their head repeatedly. These are just a few examples of fidgeting. Not only is fidgeting distracting to the audience, it will also make them look less prepared and in some cases less trustworthy.
4. Stay on topic: Homework is complete, messages have been studied and there is a solid story to tell, so tell it! Techniques like bridging and blocking will help turn negative questions into positives, and also help your spokesperson control the interview with natural segues. And never let your spokesperson go 'off the record' or fall into the 'what's your personal opinion' trap. Everything they say should be tied back to the carefully crafted key messages that put your company and brand in the best light possible.
Here are five more tips to being great on camera: #1: It's not what you say but how you say it; #2: Be authentic but not yourself; #3: Understand how much editing will take place; #4: Don't over-prepare and stay within your wheelhouse; #5: Don't try to hide something from the audience.
Mastering an on-camera interview is key to getting your message out and positively building your company's reputation and credibility. However, if the interview isn't handled effectively, the story can go sideways and may end up a YouTube sensation for all the wrong reasons.
If you need a little guidance, consider formal media training from a PR firm to help your spokesperson nail the interview, which will make everyone involved (including you) look good.