How to nail a great TV news interview – by thinking like a reporter

One of the techniques I’ve used in media training is using my TV news experience to help learners ‘think like a reporter’. Here are some tips on making it work for you.

If you’re a media spokesperson for your organisation, you’ll know how much of a challenge it can be to deliver a great TV or radio news interview. As well as wanting to look confident and relaxed, you’re often trying to boil down complex issues into a simple soundbite.

A useful way of approaching your next interview is to think about what the journalist is looking for, and making that knowledge work for you.

Inside the TV news reporter’s head

I’ve worked on ‘both sides of the fence’ – as a news reporter and as a spokesperson, so I have a good idea of the challenges facing each.

TV news reporters are very busy people. They’re usually working to tight, fixed deadlines with pressure from their editor to deliver an interesting and balanced report.

Let’s look at one common scenario: the reporter is putting together a 2-4 minute ‘package’ and needs a few short interview clips. What are they looking for?

It’s helpful to start with the finished product and work backwards. At the end of the day, they want a snappy, interesting piece. They usually have plenty of footage to ‘build’ the story around – often this will be case studies and ‘library’ pictures, along with graphics etc.

Let’s take the example of a story about long NHS waiting lists. That might typically include footage of – and an interview with – a patient waiting for treatment. There might also be graphics and archive footage of hospital wards. The reporter will use their ‘voiceover’ to narrate the story using these images.

Where does your interview fit in?

If you’re the spokesperson for an organisation campaigning on this issue, they might want a short clip from you – perhaps around 15 seconds.

The role of your clip is to bring something to the piece that can’t come from elsewhere.  This commonly includes:

  • Well informed opinion
  • Your unique perspective
  • Passion, conviction and authority
  • Something that underlines the importance, interest and relevance of their story to their viewers

These are all things that they won’t easily get from the other ‘ingredients’ in the news package such as drone footage or interviews with the public.

Help them to help you

What does this mean for you, the spokesperson?

Put simply, it’s about focusing on delivering a key message that distils your ‘take’ on the story into a 15 second soundbite.

Be clear about what you want to get across – and ‘package’ it as something that will work for the reporter.

That way, they’re much more likely to use the words you want to be included in their report, rather than cut them out.

To return to our example, your organisation might have a key ‘ask’ of government on tackling NHS waiting lists. So think about how you might ‘package’ that message. Why is it so important? What impact does it have on ordinary people? How can you bring human connection and emotion to your message?

Take it to the next level with media training

This is just a brief taster of some of the techniques you can use to deliver powerful and effective media interviews. If you’d like to upskill yourself and your team, how about some media training? I offer charities and nonprofits in Wales bespoke training sessions – have a look at the training I did for Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) and their testimonial.

Get in touch if you’d like to know more, or if you’re ready to commission a session for your team. I’d love to help you make your interviews shine.

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