Article: So, the media called, now what?
(Published in Frogpond, volume 34:3, Fall 2011, p.113)
by Jessica Tremblay
Jessica Tremblay is a haiku poet and French spokesperson for the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival. She has done many media interviews for radio and television, and was featured in a TV report at Radio-Canada. She also worked in television for 8 years. She gives us tips on how to deal with the media.
A reporter tracked you down and asked you for an interview? Companies would be thousands of dollars for that attention and you got it without any effort. Say Yes!
Rule #1 Never Refuse a Media Interview.
Even if you’re too busy, even if you think you've got nothing to say, even if you've never done it before, even if you're terrified you’re gonna say something stupid. Say yes! It’s a great opportunity to promote something you are passionate about. You won’ regret it, believe me!
Rule #2 Call Back Immediately.
Medias have very tight deadline. If a TV reporter calls you in the morning, he needs to talk to you NOW (not in two hours, not tomorrow...) His story his probably due at 5pm today. Call him NOW! One day I got a voicemail from a TV reporter. I waited the next day to call him. He said the story was due yesterday. The only thing in the piece missing was an interview with me. Luckily, he said, the producer agreed to postpone the piece to today. The reporter was immediately on his way to my house. The interview process lasted less than 10 minutes and appear a couple hours later on TV.
The producer, reporter, or researcher will give you a call. They will tell you how long the interview will be and give you a broad idea of the questions they will ask.
Rule # 3 Prepare...
but not so much that you won’t sound natural. An interview is a conversation, not a rehearsed dialogue. If you're afraid you'll forget something, write it down on a piece of paper. Bring only ONE piece of paper with you to the interview, especially if you are on the radio. Place the piece of paper on the table and don’t touch it, otherwise people will hear you shuffle paper through the microphone.
Rule #4 What is your main message
Ask yourself: what is the one thing you want viewers/listeners to retain from this interview? Buy your book? Attend a certain event? Focus on how you will get this point across. Send the main message to the producer, reporter, researcher: the details of your book, or the event’s location, date and time. This way, the interviewer will end the interview by repeating the information for the viewers/listeners, reinforcing your message.
Rule #5 Tell people you will be on TV and radio: even if you’re afraid you're going to make a fool of yourself. If you do want your message to be heard, you have to tell your tribe first. Use your e-mail list, newsletter, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Your tribe will help disseminate the message.
Rule #6 Control your jitters
Plan to arrive early. Avoid big meals right before the interview. Bring a bottle of water, but be careful no to drink too much, otherwise you’ll be bloated or you’ll need to run to the washroom. Drink a sip of water before your interview (or bite your tongue gently to activate saliva) so your mouth is not dry. Stay calm. Tell yourself. “I know what I know” and “Everything will be all right”. As soon as the interview starts, you’ll forget you’re nervous and you’ll actually enjoy the process.
* NEVER look straight at the camera.
* Don’t play with the paper in front of you. Leave the paper on the table and only glance at it if you need to.
* Keep your answer short. Remember: an interview is a conversation, not a monologue. Also, this will facilitate editing.
Rule #7 Promote it: If they want to take your picture to accompany your piece on the web or social media, or if they ask you to do a promo for the piece, say yes. It’s another opportunity for your message to be heard.
Rule #8 Ask for a copy. Keep it for your portfolio. Update your resume to include your media experience.
Rule #9 Self-assessment
Treat yourself to a good meal or coffee and reflect back on the interview. Ask yourself: What did I do right? What could have I done been better? Take notes about what you should improve so you are ready for the next time. If you messed up during the interview, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ll be better next time.
Rule #10 Get ready for more calls Medias feed off each other. Once you appear on tv or on the radio, you can expect more calls in the following days. Be ready and don't forget Rule #1: Never refuse a media interview.
With lots of practice, you’ll be an expert in no time.
TV report (super easy!): They will interview you for 2-3 minutes. They will only broadcast a 5 second clip that, within the context of the report, will make you look very clever. That’s the magic of editing!
Pre-recorded radio interview (easy): they will interview you (for anywhere between 5-30 minutes), edit the piece to a 2-5 minute feature that will be broadcasted some time within the next week or month. The final piece can include narrator's introduction, music, voice over. The result will be a really nice promotional piece. These interviews are pretty easy to do, since the reporter will edit all the bad parts out, but they demand lots of preparation.
TV feature story (easy): If media wants to do a story that focus on you, they will come to your house and spend more time shooting (possibly a day or two). Features are more time consuming, but they offer the best promotional piece. The deadline is usually a couple weeks to a month, so they have plenty of time to edit (to make your look clever), as well as shoot additional footage if time allows. On the other hand, you’ll have to make sure your office/house/yourself look nice for the cameras.
Live radio interview (medium): can be a bit more nerve wracking, because you’ll be LIVE, but on the radio you can bring in a piece of paper with information you’re afraid you’ll forget, and nobody will ever know you have a cheat sheet. Also, you’re not alone. The radio hosts are great listeners: if they see you are stuck, they will help you and move the conversation along.
Live TV interview (difficult): If you are going to be interviewed on Live TV, good for you and best of luck to you. Everything you say and do will be broadcasted live for millions to see and hear and possibly share on YouTube. I’ve never done a live TV interview (except via phone... the news anchor from Meteo Media asked me questions live and my voice was featured live on TV over pictures of cherry blossoms), but if they ask me I will have to say yes, because I always practice what I preach starting with Rule #1: never refuse a media interview.
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