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The insider’s guide to nailing a TV interview

The insider’s guide to nailing a TV interview

TV appearances on media channels like BBC, Bloomberg or Channel NewsAsia can boost your company profile tremendously.

So, how can you ensure a seat for your CEO in front of the camera?

Our industry insider, Brenda Lane, a seasoned producer with an international TV news channel, shares some tips over coffee.

Relevance and immediacy
Business-oriented shows need to be informative and current. The insights you’re offering must be relevant to the hottest topic at that time. Evergreen topics need to be skewed in a way that will be relevant to the viewers.

Brenda says, “You need a strong pitch to win a spot on TV. It has to peg with a particular event or recent news like global financial news, market trends, breaking news that leave an impact on a particular economy, etc.”

Seriously, why you?
Give compelling reasons as to why they need to talk to you about the topic. Why you and why now? You need to stand out.

Be specific about where you want to be
When you pitch, be specific on your target segment and show. A media channel has hundreds of shows running within a week, so you have to know your slots. If a target show is fully booked for the day, have a back-up pitch for another show.

Be upfront from the start
The producer needs to know what you are willing to talk about and your no-go topics. If there are certain details you are not allowed to mention on air, inform the producer beforehand so that they can work around the questions without breaking any rules.

“It’s best to be clear from the start. Otherwise, an “I’m sorry I can’t answer that” on air cuts the interview short and lessens your chances of getting invited for any TV interviews in the future,” Brenda says.

Booking a guest spot
The process for guest booking can take at least one to two weeks. Shows are planned in advance but, as with the nature of news, anything can happen at a moment’s notice. In general, guests are usually booked a week in advance, while big-name guests are booked months ahead. To secure a place, your first step is to contact the guest booking desk and present your pitch at least two weeks ahead.

“It’s a centralised team. The bookers will filter the guests and topics pitched before it reaches the producers. All producers will meet for daily and weekly meetings to discuss who goes on the show.”

Live interviews preferred
Media channels prefer to do live interviews in the studio as news can be time-sensitive. Telephone interviews are only conducted if they do not have a studio on location at a particular city. Pre-recorded interview requires more resources (about 5 crew members and equipment) to send on location to shoot it and must be worth the effort.

“We have to make an editorial decision whether a person is worth doing a pre-recorded interview. It depends on the interviewee. For example, if it’s the IMF chief, the recording will definitely be played.”

Every second counts
The standard live TV interview segment takes about 4 minutes. The more interesting interviews can go longer, but this is rare. Any time extension (up to two minutes at most) is decided on the spot by the producer.

Wanted: Quality guests
Who would make the best guest? Someone with an informed opinion and willing to share it live. It is very obvious if the guest is not knowledgeable about a topic or industry. At the same time, good interpersonal skills and a sense of humour translate well on TV.

“You can tell who is cautious or candid on TV. Candid guests always make the most interesting interviews. A lot is in the way they communicate, how they address issues…being pointed and direct is a plus. If the interviewee is very dry, we’ll have to cut it short,” she explains.

No scripts available
Contrary to common misconception, interview questions are not given out before the show. The anchor (your interviewer) will formulate the questions on his/her own. The team will meet with the anchor to discuss story angle and suggest question ideas, but the rest is up to the anchor. There’s no script involved. You will be briefed with a rough idea about the topic, so you can prepare for the interview.

Just the two of us
It’s the anchor’s job to make you feel comfortable during the interview, but you have nothing to be nervous about. There is no audience on set – just you (and another guest, if any) and the anchor. Cameras and lighting are robotic and operated by the cameraman in a hidden console.

Need more tips on making your TV appearance count? Click here for the dos and don’ts.

Tags: B2B Marketing, B2C Marketing, Branding

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