As a publicist, one of my favorite parts of my job is booking TV segments. When in college, I originally thought I wanted to be a TV reporter and spent each summer working as an intern at the local news stations. After graduating college and creating a demo reel, I started my job search… long story short, I ended up in the PR industry (which I’m so grateful for — but more on how that happened later), but always love making my way back to the studio. There’s just something special about the hustle and energy at a news station.
But, before I even get to the news station, a lot goes into prepping clients for TV segments. For first timers, you can’t simply send someone off to their on-air interview and expect TV star results. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of tips for aspiring publicists or for anyone who might find themselves in front of the camera one day.
Ask yourself: what is my message? Think carefully about the key points you want to convey to the media outlet’s audience. From there, pick the three most important and determine how you can express these points in the most concise way possible. Typically, you are on-air for only about three to four minutes and you’ll be surprised how quickly it flies by.
Additionally, determine the media outlet’s agenda and anticipate questions they might ask you. While these questions might not come up, you always want to have an answer prepared for even the most difficult questions. Occasionally, the interviewer will stray off the subject matter and when you are focused and committed to your mission, it makes it much easier to steer the conversation back to the topic at hand.
When dressing for a TV interview, wear what your typically wear in your job setting. It wouldn’t make sense for a pastry chef to show up in a suit, right? But, it does make sense for a corporate business leader to don a jacket and tie and/or a dress and heels.
As for colors, skip the funky patterns (e.g. stripes or checks) as they aren’t camera-friendly. And when it comes to all white, all black and/or red… leave that behind as well. Instead, find an outfit in a solid color that suits you. Think navy blue, pastels, jewel-tones. And of course, make sure your outfit is wrinkle-free. And for women, avoid dangling jewelry as it can affect sound on your mic.
This is an easy one. Be on time! Your PR team will provide you with an arrival time and an on-air time. It is extremely important to get to the TV studio at the designated arrival time. Why’s that? Typically, the producer will introduce themselves, ask a few pre-interview questions, direct you to hair & make up if needed, set you up with a mic, and make sure everything is all set for on-air time. News programs are on a tight schedule and even being a minute late can screw up the program.
We get it, you’re nervous. It takes time to get used to sitting in front of camera, not knowing which questions will be asked, and having dozens of studio lights directed at you. But you do know this: you were brought on-air to speak because you are an expert in your field and can provide the audience with meaningful information. Take a deep breath. Avoid saying “um,” “you know,” and “like,” and remember to speak slowly and clearly.
Since this is a TV interview, rather than the audience hearing your voice on the radio and/or reading your quotes in the newspaper, they’re also watching you. Don’t be afraid to talk with your hands so that you don’t sit rigidly in your chair. Sit up straight. Avoid crossing your arms. Make eye contact with the interviewer and not the camera. Match your facial expression with the topic at hand. And of course, be yourself!
And lastly, I work mainly with chefs from restaurants and always find myself telling them: make it visual. Depending on the segment topic, this isn’t always necessary. But, if you’re a chef or showing off a product, figure out a way to make the segment visual and appealing. Whether that means you literally cook on-air or that you bring to set beautiful table decor to highlight your product… it’s all about creating something that interests the viewers.