We may be in the thick of our third national lockdown in less than a year, but the media is still working 24/7 to bring us news – and not just pandemic related.
What has become clear as this crisis has continued apace is that the media has kept doing what it does best throughout – providing vital updates, holding politicians to account and delivering heart-warming stories which are keeping us all going during these tough, tough times. So, what does this mean for you and your business?
It is of course understandable that a huge section of the news agenda is still COVID-19-related. The infection rates, horrific daily death toll and now, thankfully, vaccination roll-out are rightly at the top of news lists, on the front pages and headlining the broadcast news.
But other news still has an important part to play and non-COVID-19 stories are still needed. And that means journalists are still in need of a wide range of spokespeople, particularly if you have a non-pandemic related story to tell.
However, one thing that has changed is how some parts of the media are able to speak to those spokespeople. There was a time when interviewing someone on the phone for radio or via webcam for TV news was an absolute no-no. Camera crews, producers and reporters or a radio car would be despatched to record a “live” interview.
But how things have changed. With huge swathes of the population now working remotely at home, interviewing people using a range of online video conferencing services has quickly become the norm. Of course, some people suffer technical issues – being interrupted by kids, sound dipping in and out, poor WIFI signal and rubbish lighting.
But I think viewers have come to understand – and actually embrace – the more relatable, and human, nature of any issues that arise. I mean, we’re all in the same boat, after all. And there’s nothing like seeing someone have technical problems live on air to remind us of that we’re not alone and it is happening to everyone else too.
I’m sure none of us will forget these interviews, which have since gone viral – firstly when Professor Robert Kelly’s child gatecrashed his home office while he was live on air and then when Dr Clare Wenham’s daughter Scarlett started debating with her mother – and then the TV anchor – where to put her unicorn picture.
Media training has of course also had to “go virtual” during the pandemic. People may be wondering whether media training can be as effective when not done in person. And the answer is a resounding “yes”. Ultimately the learnings are the same and practice interviews can be done just as effectively and I have been conducting successful sessions throughout.
But what about preparing for an online interview? Are there any other factors you need to consider? I’ve compiled what I believe are some of the top tips you need to think about when preparing for a remote media grilling!
1) Being prepared is always my top media training tip. If you’re well prepared, well trained, and have worked on honing your media interview skills, you can boss any media interview, period.
2) Being prepared means knowing what you want to say, having some key messages and soundbites prepared. This will help you stay in control and relaxed and allow you to answer questions with confidence. If you need some prompts, don’t have them on the desk as you will have to look down to read them, making it obvious you’re referring to notes. Instead, print them out in large font – key reminder words will do – then stick that up on the wall in front of you but behind the camera so you can look at them without anyone realising.
3) It also means ensuring you – and the room you’re in – are presentable. You can both be seen after all. Don’t try to be clever about what you have in the background. Keep it simple and clutter-free. We don’t want to see piles of dirty clothes or anything overly personal for that matter.
4) Your appearance is also key. Make sure your hair is tidy, you’ve not got your breakfast on your chin, your clothes are smart and buttoned up properly and that you’re presentable. I know it is easy to think “as long as my top half is smart, I can stick to my PJs on the bottom”, but my advice is – if you’re going on live TV, put proper, smart clothes on both halves! Remember Good Morning America news reporter Will Reeve, son of Superman star Christopher, who decided to wear a shirt and tie but just his underwear on the bottom. Unfortunately, his camera angle gave the game away, with his choice of undies broadcast worldwide. And that will now be on the internet – forever.
5) Check your tech. How’s your lighting? Does your sound and camera work? (Also see above re: importance of camera angle). It’s worth doing these checks with a friend or colleague on a virtual call way before the interview takes place so you can see what you look and sound like before going live and have time to sort any issues. When the interview time nears, it means you will be confident in your technology and, making sure you have the link ready to “dial in” at the allotted time, you’ll be good to go. Oh, and don’t forget to turn your mobile phone OFF, not just to silent.
6) Once you click that link to connect, presume you are live until after you disconnect. That means you need to behave like anything you do or say might be seen. So don’t get caught out wiping your nose or talking to your cat. It’s worth staying on mute until the interview is ready to start – but don’t forget to unmute before you speak!
7) What makes any live interview great is when someone brings passion and energy to what they are saying. This is even more important when viewers can only see your head and shoulders. Smile. Nod. Keep your eyes directly on the camera. Sit straight, don’t slouch. Convey your enthusiasm for what you are saying in your voice and the phrases you use.
8) It’s also worthwhile pausing for a second or two before answering a question in case there is any delay caused by the connection. But don’t pause for too long – you don’t want the studio to think there is a technical issue and cut away from you.
9) And finally – enjoy it! Any media interview is a fantastic opportunity for both you and the organisation you represent. It is your chance to shine and convey important messages to a wide audience. Make the most of it and there’s a very big chance you’ll be asked back.
It looks like we’re going to be living in this “virtual reality” for some time to come. If you like what you’ve read and want to learn more, become a competent spokesperson or just put your skills to the test, then please get in touch and let me help you build your remote interview confidence.