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How to Hand-Hold Your Clients Through Perfect Live Media Interviews

Perfect Live Media InterviewsYour pitch worked! It was perfectly targeted to the TV journalist’s needs and audience, impeccably timed and well written. It’s booked at the station and on your client’s calendar.

So what comes next?

The interview! The very thought of appearing as a guest on live TV can make even the most seasoned media spokesperson quake in their boots and it’s our job to make sure they are prepared.

The February #PRprochat was lucky enough to have Gerard Braud as a special guest, author of “Don’t Speak to the Media Until…” and he shared some fantastic tips. He has specialized in media training and crisis communication planning since for the last twenty years, and is a wonderful source of expertise.

If you missed the chat, the full transcript is here but I thought I would highlight some of the best tweets in today’s post.

What are the most common issues seen with media interviews and, as PR pros, how can we avoid them?


It’s important to not let clients get too confident, no matter how many times they have done interviews in the past. Always, always, always run through preparation basics for every single media interview. In addition to normal pre-preparation, I find it valuable to call them ten minutes before every interview to do a quick practice run. It helps ensure the right message points are top-of-mind heading into the interview, which works far better than doing it cold from memory.

Gerard is a huge proponent of teaching “verbatim phrases that can be used every day, so the sentences are well-structured and can be internalized.” He also says “media training must be approached like a sport and not like a bucket list. Great athletes practice often.”

One other point Braud made was that we tend to place too much focus on bullet points as key messages, leaving wiggle room for ad libbing. Sound bites, yes, but not bullet points. Every spokesperson should also know exactly what they will say as their first words in every interview. Where there is room for the ad lib is the preamble to the message point – it can be used to give context to the answer they are about to give.

I have a confession – I’ve always used two or three bullet points as key message points to put in front of my client, because I thought it was better to have them say it naturally and fit it to the situation. A memorized sentence doesn’t always roll off the tongue quite right, depending on the moment it’s used. But I’m going to change my tactic, based on Gerard’s expert opinion.


How can we make our clients more comfortable with live interviews?



I love what he said next… “If you use great quotes and add context, you control the interview.” So true! Depending on how good the producer is, it’s sometimes amazing how reporters can sometimes begin an interview completely unprepared. Is this a bad thing? Not always. It gives the interviewee a little more space to take the interview in the direction they want, with more flexibility to “create the story.”

One of my favorite ways to help a client be more comfortable is practicing in a mock-interview type of setting. Bring up the easy, difficult and truly awkward questions you think a reporter might come up with, and have the client practice taking control and diffusing.

Then, when the interview goes smoothly, it’s a huge confidence-builder and relief. You can see the client relax into the live interview when they realize they are in control and doing a great job.

Role playing also helps your client realize that they don’t have to answer the question with a direct answer. As long as they learn to be nimble in creating context, the interview will go well.

One last tweet Gerard shared that I think is valuable was this: “A great quote manipulates how the reporter will construct their story. It manipulates and controls the edits.”

How can you translate that powerful thought into a great interview? Put together some short, powerful sound bites instead of message points, have your client memorize them and start using them often – then prepare, prepare, prepare for those interviews. Confidence breeds success.

That’s it for today! To read more of Gerard’s advice and check out the full Q&A, head over to the #PRprochat transcript. Have a great weekend!


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