Guidance on TV and radio
Targeting TV and radio is a strategic imperative as for example the evening news programmes on BBC and STV in Scotland have a combined audience of almost 1 million, eclipsing the reach of all newspapers combined.
If the story is about research into e.g. dementia, TV teams doing a full one minute 45 seconds package will want to film elderly people and interview a carer or researcher at a centre reasonably near a broadcasting base. Does the centre have signed consent forms from relatives? It can take several days and weeks to arrange access for TV crews which is why advance notice can increase the chances of coverage.
If interviewed by a reporter look at him or her. In a studio remote from where the TV presenters are, you look directly into the lens of the camera - and pretend it is the face of someone you know and like, not a lump of glass and plastic. That is the key to appearing warm and personable on screen.
Avoid jargon and other aspects of bureaucratic committee-speak. It distances viewers and may even alienate them. Try to convey in a very human way what this information means to real people. E.g. "We are not suggesting this research will cure this disease but we hope it will improve patients experience."
Be clear and concise. Sometimes experts want to go into several subordinate clauses which qualify their main point. But there is likely to be just 10-20 seconds of airtime available to you so try to make the most of it.
Your aim is to impart a nugget of information which is so interesting and uncluttered viewers will remember it.
It is important to not say anything of significance in the minutes before going on air as this may be picked up by microphones.
Any BBC TV clip is likely to be dubbed off for use on radio too and you may receive a separate invitation to appear on Good Morning Scotland. A live interview makes for better listening and a better slot on the programme although a pre-record may be the only option if you are unavailable at the given time.
The Communications team should establish the ground the interview is likely to cover. The reporter is unlikely to tell your team the exact questions. In any case pre-prepared answers read from a sheet of paper sound awful.
For radio do prepare bullet points so that you remember what you would like to get across. These points can make you sound more focused and offer a territory you can divert the conversation towards if questions are sticky.
Please make every effort to get to a radio studio as a telephone interview sounds inferior and usually rules you out of the best slots on the programme (07.10-07.20 and 08.10-08.20). Ideally go to the Glasgow studio so that you can read the facial expressions and be generally more connected with the presenters there.
Arrive in plenty of time to find the studio, have the coffee in your flask and perhaps skim a couple of papers in case a related issue is in the news.
If interviewees are a little anxious they are more likely to "em" and "er". Try to use as few as possible. A tiny silent pause often sounds better than an "em".
Be yourself but consider slowing your speech down to give yourself a little time to think.
Be engaging not dull. Listeners are more influenced by the tone than the content of your speech. Avoid over preparation. It can make your mind so cluttered you are less inclined to talk in a naturally engaging way.
Appearance on TV
Appearance should not matter but research indicates it very much affects viewers' impressions of you, your argument and your organisation. Famous research by UCLA indicates that astonishingly content of speech amounts for only 7% of the impact of a speaker. At a subliminal level viewers are influenced by body language, clothes, tone, accent etc.
- Be relaxed but sit up and slightly forward so that there is no hint of complacency
- A tie is not necessarily appropriate on the sofa of STV's Scotland Tonight programme. Denim jeans are rarely appropriate for a studio interview.
- Guests under studio lights may perspire, making them look nervous, possibly even shifty. Men and women in the main studios therefore usually go into the make-up studio before going on air.
- Do not just think in terms of dealing defensively with each question. Be engaging and interesting! This creates a good impression - and greatly increases the chances of more invitations to do media interviews.
Live or pre-recorded interviews outside the studio
Consider preparing a sound bite to convey the key points you want to get across. Broadcasters may use up to 30 seconds (90 words) but often in reality less and TV in particular may use a clip of as little as 1O seconds (30 words). So there is a case for really distilling what you want to get across. Commonly people want to offer too much detail which uses up valuable time, missing the chance to convey substantive points.