My primary experience as a Public Relations professional has been to attract media attention for experts in my company or clients. Once media interest and an interview opportunity is earned, I do my due diligence to ensure spokespeople are media-ready, key-message-ready and excited for the interview. This week, as the spokeswoman for InterContinental Hotel Groups (IHG)® Canada I did a TV interview on a local Toronto daytime show.
How did I prepare?
- Know your key messages – You will likely never be interviewed on TV for a topic you know nothing about. But if you are as smart as Justin Trudeau, you can answer, “What is quantum computing” when thrown a curve ball from a reporter. Lucky for me, my segment was pitched to the producer who was interested in the topic of ‘Staycation Destinations in Canada’. I was very familiar with the key messages as IHG’s PR agency (H+K Strategies) and I researched and wrote the pitch. Plus, what’s easier than speaking about dream vacation destinations?
Although I knew the messages, I wanted to make the interview personal. For example, before the interview, I decided to focus my answers on destinations in Ontario that I was most familiar with. This meant centering on locations I have been to: Kingston, Niagara Falls, Ottawa and Toronto. It’s always easier, and more authentic to tie in a personal anecdote into your interview. Why do you love the brand? Why did you invent the product? Make it personal.
- Be briefed and prepare – Equally important to knowing your key messages is to be familiar with the show you are appearing on and the journalist. Being fully briefed before the interview will allow you to focus on your content. Find out if the TV segment is live or taped, if you are the sole guest or part of a group or panel, and if you are even allowed to mention the brand you represent (some shows frown on heavy brand messaging). If they say “no” to brand messaging, ask if your company’s website can be shown on the screen along with your title.
When it comes to knowing the journalist, you should read up on his/her views on certain topics. You can do this by reading their Twitter or LinkedIn profiles or by watching the show’s previous segments. If possible, try to chat with the interviewer before the show – they will likely greet you in a make-up room, or green room and introduce themselves. Be enthusiastic when you meet them. They are not a firing squad (hopefully) – journalists are curious by nature and so, do your best to show and tell, and allow yourself to shine. Last note on this point, remember the interviewer’s name, and don’t forget it, no matter what!
- What to wear? If you are fashion conscious, this can be the most challenging aspect of interview prep. The old PR reco would be to stick to neutral colours (white, grey and black), and to wear solids to avoid any blurring of stripes, polka dots or paisley print. To that I say, hello 2016! With HD quality broadcasting, you shouldn’t shy away from colours. Although, I would suggest if you have a company branded shirt, or an outfit that represents your brand’s style – opt for that! Why not have a visual for the audience that connects your words to your look.
Remember, be comfortable! Avoid tight clothes or shoes you can’t sit and stand in. If you decide on a skirt or dress, make sure it’s long enough – we don’t want it to ride up as you sit for an interview.
- Memory cues – Nerves get the best of us at times, and seconds before the interview, you may get sweaty, develop an eye twitch or worst, and go blank. Take a deep breath.
As an interview-hack, I would recommend keeping memory hints or cues with you during the interview. If possible, bring props! For my Daytime interview, I brought on a piece of my hand luggage, a sun hat, sun scarf and a Holiday Inn® luggage tag. To cue myself to the topic of summer travel, I mentioned the luggage at the beginning of the interview. The camera panned to the luggage and right onto the Holiday Inn tag- boom a branding reference!
The PR agency also supplied images of the locations I was going to be speaking about to the producer. As I spoke about each destination, an image popped up giving me a reminder of what I had to say. In addition to this, on the coffee table in front of me, I kept my IHG® Rewards Club Card because I wanted to remind myself to speak about the loyalty program.
There are also many ways you can amplify your interview, especially through social media. Ideally, you should tweet and post a Facebook message tagging in the show or the show’s hashtag before you appear. The show or station will want to promote you on the show, so it’s a win-win. Lastly, and this an ‘oldie-but-goodie’ tip… make sure to practice with someone. Maybe it’s with your mom, mirror or dog, but be sure to practice!