The TV-interview: own your message

Media relations Training and Coaching

Stay in control of your own message. That is by far my most important advice when you get the chance to tell your story in front of a camera. Prepare up to three key messages and repeat them throughout the interview. This is the only way to stay in control of your story. And thus it will be clear to the journalist which accents you want to set. Apart from that: stay yourself and tell your story as if you were telling it to your neighbour.

Those who get the chance to tell the story of their project or company in front of a TV camera are usually overwhelmed by nerves. TV still has something magical and at the same time has a big impact because it reaches a wide audience. But the moment you stand in front of the camera, you don’t see your audience. And you have no control over the end result, because the journalist chooses which quotes or parts of the interview he will use afterwards. A loss of control, then.

Three key messages

In order to stay in charge of your story, it is best to prepare a maximum of three key messages in advance. These are the most important statements you will certainly want to make about your story. Answer as many of the journalist’s questions as possible with these key messages. Do not answer next to the question, but always take a small turn to get back to your own key messages. This is how you determine the accents of your story, and not the interviewer.

Short quotes

Make short, powerful statements, each lasting about 20 seconds. This is how long the viewer’s span of attention lasts, after which he or she will want to hear or see something else. If you do give longer answers, the journalist will shorten your quotes to 20 seconds. Shortening means cutting away information, and thus… a loss of control over your own communication.

Talk a teen’s talk

TV usually reaches a wide audience, people from all walks of life, of all ages and backgrounds. Therefore: adapt your language accordingly. Use words that everyone understands, regardless of their prior knowledge of the subject. In concrete terms, this means using a vocabulary which teenagers age 14 also understand: no jargon, no difficult or rigid words, no abbreviations, or terms in a different language. Just keep it perfectly clear.

Stay yourself

And finally: stay yourself. Don’t pretend to be anything else than what you are in normal life. Tell your story as if you were telling it to your neighbour, from the gut, with enthusiasm, and in plain common language. Don’t put on clothes you don’t normally wear. Never look into the camera, but always at the journalist, who is standing right next to the lens. Keep your arms in front of your body and use your hands when talking. Just like you do in normal life. Being authentic is the key.

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