Whether you’re a writer preparing to do a television interview or still visualizing the day it happens, you can’t miss these seven tips for TV from freelance writer and blogger Susan Johnston! She recently appeared on ABC, discussing an article she wrote about job interviews.
Before her tips, a quip:
“To me, every interview, even if you love the artist, needs to be somewhat adversarial,” says journalist Chuck Klosterman. “Which doesn’t mean you need to attack the person, but you do need to look at it like you’re trying to get information that has not been written about before.”
Here’s television interview tip number one: be prepared to answer questions you might not expect! As writers, we know how important it is to share exciting new information — and we might be asked to cough it up unexpectedly. For more tips on radio and television interviews, click on Media Training 101: A Guide to Meeting the Press by Sally Stewart. And, read on for Johnston’s seven tips for television interviews for writers…
7 Tips for Television Interviews for Writers
1. Be prepared to act fast. “ABC invited me on a Friday and I appeared the following Monday!” says Johnston. “In a way, it was good because I had limited time to obsess. I didn’t get the exact address until Monday morning. When I arrived, I discovered there was no make-up person (originally there was mention of someone doing my make-up because it’s different for TV). I’m sure this is a common timeline for a daily news program.”
2. Bring your own makeup. “I did my best in the women’s restroom with the small make-up case I’d brought,” says Johnston. “I looked ridiculous up close. But on camera, you couldn’t even tell I was wearing make-up! Next time I’d like to hire someone who can show me how to do make-up for TV.” If you don’t have your own makeup (which I don’t – I only wear mascara and eyeliner), then actively seek writers or other people experienced in television interviews.
3. Ask for the interview questions in advance – but be ready to “wing it.” “The producer emailed me a loose script, but we didn’t follow it very closely,” says Johnston. “It was supposed to be more of a conversation rather than a scripted scene. You can tell when I got a few curveballs because my eyes were darting around trying to figure out what to say! None of the questions were completely unexpected, but I wanted to sound smart.”
4. Choose the right attire. “I’d wear a more saturated color so it would contrast against my skin – maybe royal blue, but definitely not black. I’d get my hair trimmed a few days before the interview (most US salons are closed on Mondays!). And I’d have my make-up professionally done.” Johnston also wonders if it’s superficial that this tip for television interviews is so appearance-oriented – but I think how you look affects how you feel and are perceived. Put your best foot forward, fellow scribes!
5. Use your interviewer’s name. “I greeted the anchor by name and remembered to smile a lot, which were suggestions from my brother,” says Johnston. “I spoke slowly and clearly, which doesn’t always happen in real life, let alone on live TV!” This tip for television interviews isn’t just for writers on TV – it’s a great way to connect with people in everyday life.
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6. Be prepared to do your TV interview alone. “I was sitting in a room by myself with a camera, a microphone, and an earpiece, which was not at all what I’d pictured!” said Johnston. “I thought TV news involved a lot of people rushing around with cameras and make-up brushes. No so. This might be different for other networks or even other programs, but I could only hear the anchor and (sometimes) the producer in one ear. You’re supposed to speak to the camera as if were the anchor, but you can’t actually see the person.
7. Stay in touch with the producer. “To get invited back, it would help to thank the producer and keep in touch via email.The next time I write a story that lends itself to a news segment, I’ll be emailing her the link!”
For more tips on media interviews for writers, read 10 Tips for Doing Radio Interviews for Writers (those tips work well for TV interviews, too).
Do you have any questions or tips for television interviews for writers? Please comment below…And, to see Johnston’s interview, go to The Urban Muse on ABC.
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Susan Johnston is a Boston-based freelance writer and blogger who has covered business and lifestyle topics for The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, DailyCandy.com, Yahoo! HotJobs, and many other publications. Want to know more? check out The Urban Muse or follow her on Twitter.