A TV journalist's tips for your first on-camera interview

A TV journalist's tips for your first on-camera interview

This usually goes down in one of two ways: 

  1. The moment is finally here. You've pitched, you've pressed, you've cajoled and there you have it. Your first TV interview. Congratulations! Or...
  2. The moment is finally here. You've been pressured, you've been cajoled and you've contemplated therapy to help you cope with the knots in your gut as you await your first TV interview. 
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Jaymes Diaz's 'deer-in-the-headlights' TV interview

Jaymes Diaz's 'deer-in-the-headlights' TV interview

It's a textbook example of the importance of making time to prepare for your media interviews. Australian politician Jaymes Diaz was recently being interviewed by TV reporter John Hill when he was asked about his plan for addressing illegal migrants entering Australia by boat. Diaz cites his party's "...six point plan to make sure that we do stop the  boats". When the journalist prompts Diaz for details, however, the politician is unable to recall even a single point.

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Preventing the on-air F-bomb

Preventing the on-air F-bomb

Fox reporter Lindsay Nadrich isn't having the best week. Nadrich, a TV journalist in Spokane, Washington, recently did a segment about picking strawberries in the rain. What the viewers at home saw was the reporter speaking on camera, stumbling over a few words and then making light of the flub by dropping a few f-bombs...

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Nail your next TV interview: Part 3

Nail your next TV interview: Part 3

Great TV spokespeople aren't born. They're made. And in this three-part series, we've tried to share some of the tips and tricks used by the people who make great TV interviews look effortless. In Part 1, we showed you what to do before your TV interview. In Part 2, we told you how to handle yourself during the interview. And in this final post of this series, we're going to share a few tips about what to do after the interview's...

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Nail your next TV interview: Part 2

Nail your next TV interview: Part 2

In the previous post, we walked you through what you need to do before your TV interview takes place...things like how to craft a story for TV, how to practice effectively, what to wear, where to look, how to deal with a TV crew ambush and more. So...you've done your prep work. Your story is nailed down. You've carved out some time to practice (hopefully on camera). Now, it's show time.

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Nail your next TV interview: Part 1

Nail your next TV interview: Part 1
TV interviews tend to put me in mind of dogs chasing cars. It seems like everyone wants to go on TV to talk about their new company, book, product, etc. But when, after so much pitching and pleading, they're finally able to line up that first TV interview, not unlike the dog that *catches* the car for the first time, few people...Read More

Crisis communications tips from The West Wing

Crisis communications tips from The West Wing

Crisis communications is one of the most stressful jobs around. And while there's no shortage of great courses, textbooks and videos out there to help you hone your crisis communications skills, there's no teacher like good...

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11 ways to totally *$#@ up your next media interview

11 ways to totally *$#@ up your next media interview

As human beings, most of us are fortunate enough to possess a finely-tuned survival instinct, honed by millions of years of evolution. You might think these awesome skills are wasted in a world without dinosaurs and sabre-toothed tigers. On the contrary. Even in the corporate world...

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How to finish your next media interview in 5 minutes or less

How to finish your next media interview in 5 minutes or less

Many spokespeople treat a media interview like a job interview. They sit there passively like a job applicant while the reporter asks question after question after question. The person being interviewed is like a human piƱata, getting whacked with questions for 10, 15, even 20 minutes at a time. The result?

 

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Christine O'Donnell breaks 3 media relations rules in 60 seconds

Christine O'Donnell breaks 3 media relations rules in 60 seconds

Last November, Christine O'Donnell gave late-night talk show hosts a gift in her 'response to accusations of witchcraft' TV spot. Yesterday, she reinforced her inability to handle the media by walking out of an on-camera interview with CNN's Piers Morgan...

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How not to respond to accusations of witchcraft

Odonnell One of the more popular stories from our newsletter this month is about Christine O'Donnell, the Republican candidate in Delaware's general election Senate race. Leading up to the election, O'Donnell's campaign was dogged by speculation about her involvement in witchcraft (speculation fueled by comments O'Donnell herself made during a 1999 TV interview). In an attempt at damage control, O'Donnell issued a 30-second TV spot aimed at convincing the public she's an ordinary person, "just like you". In a shockingly poor attempt at addressing the issue head-on, however, a smiling O'Donnell begins her ad with the following four words: "I'm not a witch." You can view the ad here.
 
The public reaction to the ad wasn't quite what O'Donnell and her organizers were hoping for. Opponents and the media had a field day. The 30-second spot was even parodied on Saturday Night Live. In her attempt to change the conversation, O'Donnell actually made the situation worse.
 

The Lesson: There are two lessons here. The first one relates to the 1999 interview in which she referred to "dabbling into witchcraft". Even if you don't aspire to hold public office one day, this probably isn't the kind of life experience to bring up in a network TV interview. The other lesson is about not repeating negative language. The TV ad would have been more effective (or at least less damaging) without the phrase "I'm not a witch." Even though she's refuting the claim, her statement has the opposite effect, serving as fodder for her opponents, critics and the media. In the end, O'Donnell lost her election bid.

Note: This story is taken from our 'Manage your Message' e-newsletter. To get your own copy sent to your inbox each month, sign up here.


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Spokespeople need to be ready for the media's tough questions

Cnn In our media training sessions, we tell participants that 90% of the success of a media interview is determined before the reporter asks their first question. It's in the homework you do to prepare for the interview. It's finding out the focus of the interview, researching the reporter's past stories on the topic, developing strong key messages and anticipating the questions you'll be asked (especially the 2-3 nightmare questions you hope you never get asked).
 
Going into a media interview unprepared is risky. Doing it on CNN is downright dangerous. Recently, Texas legislator Rep. Debbie Riddle appeared on CNN's 'Anderson Cooper 360' to talk about 'terror babies' - a supposed threat in which terrorist organizations send pregnant women to the US to have their children who would be US citizens, but who would be trained abroad to be terrorists and could return to the US without raising suspicion.
 
When Cooper asked for evidence about the controversial claim, Riddle alluded to conversations with 'former FBI officials'. Unsatisfied with her response, Cooper asked her several more times for evidence of these plots, saying that claims of this magnitude warranted proof. As the reporter continued to press, Riddle became visibly uncomfortable and finally said, "When your folks called me in the preliminary [interview]...they did not tell me that you were going to grill me for this specific information that I was not ready to give you tonight. They did not tell me that, sir." You can view the interview here.
 
The Lesson: Before your media interview, anticipate questions -- escpecially the bad ones. Take a few moments during your preparation to play the role of the reporter and think of the hardest questions you would ask yourself. Ask trusted colleagues to think of some difficult questions too. Then, figure out how you're going to address those questions if they come up in the interview. In most cases, those questions will never see the light of day. But if they do, at least you'll be prepared.

Note: This story is taken from our 'Manage your Message' e-newsletter. To get your own copy sent to your inbox each month, sign up here.

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Is GM bending the truth with its latest TV ad?

GM Have you seen that new GM commercial? The one with the upbeat music, where CEO Ed Whitacre proudly states, "That's why I'm here to announce we have repaid our government loan - in full, with interest, five years ahead of the original schedule."

If that line caused you to raise an eyebrow, you're not alone. The media has been all over GM for the claim (which, ironically, appears in a commercial titled 'Trust'). GM has paid off loans from the federal government, but the U.S. Treasury is still GM's majority shareholder at a cost of approximately $50 billion. Critics say GM's repayment actually came from another government bailout program. One TV commentator described it as "paying off your MasterCard with your Visa".

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, alleging deceptive advertising. GM says it is "confident that our ad meets the FTC's guidelines". We'll have to wait and see how this one plays out.

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Don Cherry says doctor's accusations 'totally unfair'

This is a quick follow up on the story we've been following this week about the doctor who accused Don Cherry of being responsible for head injuries in the game of hockey.

In his December 19 Coach's Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry called Doctor Tator's accusations 'totally unfair'. He even went so far as to say, "I would hate to think Doctor Tator is doing it just to get his name in the paper."

You can view the Coach's Corner segment here.

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The wrath of Grapes...

Quick follow up to yesterday's post about the brain surgeon who attacked Don Cherry as a way to get his story about head injuries in hockey in the media. It has only been one day but the payback has started to roll in. Check out Bruce Dowbiggin's story today in The Globe and Mail. 

And this link has an audio clip of Don Cherry refusing to do a radio interview on the topic. Warning - multiple expletives....

Coach's Corner should be more entertaining than usual this Saturday night.

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David Letterman gives a lesson in crisis management

David Letterman gives a lesson in crisis management
Even if you didn't watch the Late Show with David Letterman last Thursday night, you've likely seen the news coverage that followed it. Letterman used 10 minutes of his show on October 1st to tell millions of people about an alleged extortion plot against him. If you're unfamiliar with the story...
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