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Cher Murphy PR - Mastering the Media

Mastering the Media: What to do when the media comes calling?
As a former TV news scriptwriter and a current PR/publicity professional, I have been on both sides of the media interview game. I like to think I have a good eye for what makes a good interview source, how to conduct an interesting interview, and how to give a compelling interview. There are a few tricks of the trade that can make you come off like a pro -- which will make the reporter’s job easier and most likely translate into a better PR/publicity placement for you.

Here are some things you should keep in mind when a television camera is on you:

TELEVISION & VIDEOTAPE TIPS
  • Gestures should be smaller.
     
  • Make sure clothing is "broken in" and comfortable when you are sitting and standing.
     
  • Prior to your performance, have instant photos or video taken of you while sitting and standing. Make sure your clothes look good in both positions.
     
  • Find out the background color of the set if possible. You don't want your clothing to blend in and make you invisible.
     
  • Ask the producer for wardrobe color suggestions.
     
  • Do not wear any clothing with tight patterns or pin stripes. This causes an optical illusion called a moiré pattern which makes you look bad.
     
  • Avoid clothing with large patterns or geometric shapes. The audience will watch your clothes instead of you.
     
  • Avoid wearing black, white, or red on television or video. Even the best of cameras have trouble with these colors.
     
  • Avoid flashy jewelry. It reflects light.
     
  • Avoid jangly jewelry. It reflects light and makes noise that will be picked up by your microphone (this applies whether you are on TV or not).
     
  • Wear your eyeglasses if you want, but avoid shiny frames.
     
  • Tip the bows of your eyeglasses up slightly off your ears. This angles the lenses down to reduce glare from lights.
     
  • Wear makeup. It has the practical purpose of reducing the glare of TV lights.
     
  • Apply it to all exposed body parts, like backs of hands, arms, neck, etc. Apply cover-up below eyes to mask bags and/or wrinkles.
     
  • Good studios are kept cool to negate the effect of the hot TV lights. You may freeze for a while until the lights are turned on, then you may burn up. Dress for the heat, but bring a jacket or extra cover-up to be used while you are waiting to go on.
     
  • Bring a handkerchief or tissues to dab perspiration during breaks.
     
  • Don't second guess the camera. Act as if you are always on screen.
     
  • Make sure your makeup, wardrobe, and hair are consistent with your message.
     
  • When a publicity campaign generates a media response, try to respond as promptly as possible to that initial contact and subsequent requests. Reporters, editors and producers are on constant deadline. If they don’t get what they want from you quickly -- they WON’T wait -- they WILL move on to another source.
  • State facts, not fireworks, keeping superlatives to a minimum. Proving your product is indeed the “BEST” is next to impossible. So don’t. Simply state the specific benefits of your product matter of factly. Let the consumer decide which product is best. As long as you have a quality product, something that should be evident by the time you implement a publicity campaign, your product won’t need “BEST EVER” or “NUMBER 1” claims to come out in a positive light.
     
  • Speak in sentences, not phrases.
    Articulate your answers in the following manner: Subject -- Verb -- Object -- Reason

    Ex: “We (subject) are launching (verb) our new product (object) to give consumers a healthy new option in beverages (reason).”

    This will help you give answers that are straightforward and easily understood. Beginning sentences with phrases, tends to make your answers seem drawn out, disjointed and most times unresponsive. This is not to say you should never begin a sentence with a phrase. Granted, some media savvy interviewees can pull it off with articulation. But until you get to that level -- stick to the fundamentals.
     
  • “Echo-answer” the main questions. If a reporter asks: “What’s so great about your new product?” -- try to paraphrase and answer: “The great thing about our product is...” That quote/soundbite is much more likely to be used because that answer can stand on its own without needing a “set-up” sentence in the article/story. A reporter can throw that quote in anywhere and it is a logical, understandable statement about the product.
     
  • Keep quotes and sound bites concise and articulate.
    If you must have a “canned response” to a question speak conversationally, not like a robot. A good rule of thumb for answer lengths: Effective TV/radio news broadcast soundbites should be around 4-10 seconds -- something you can speak comfortably in about 3 or 4 normal breaths. Anything longer and it may seem to drone on. That’s why they are called sound bites. Regardless, stick to the S-V-O formula and there’s no real way you can get off track and therefore open you up to awkward follow-up questions.
     
  • Be a well, not a fountain.
    By that I mean allow the interviewer to dip in and draw out your responses instead of spewing forth a tirade of unsolicited information. (Don’t worry – most interviewers will “lead” you into discussing the most relevant aspects of your product) You will seem more genuine and less self-serving if you answer the interviewer’s questions succinctly and professionally. This is especially true in “firefighting” publicity -- when your product/business/company is being interviewed in the wake of a problem.
     
  • Speak to the interviewer, not the medium.
    Don’t get blinded by the “stage lights”. Whether you are speaking to the editor of a small town weekly newspaper or Oprah, consider the reporter just a single person in your extensive targeted audience. Treat the interview as a one on one conversation with the reporter. That will make you more at ease, allow you to think more clearly and let you be more genuine in your responses.


MEN
  • Wear knee-length socks.
     
  • Always keep double breasted jackets buttoned.
     
  • Single breasted jackets can be opened, but not too wide.
     
  • I SAY AGAIN Wear Makeup. TV lights can penetrate several layers of skin. You can't possibly shave close enough to prevent whiskers from showing without makeup.
     
  • Don't forget makeup on receding hairlines or bald heads.
Trick: Run the thin part of your tie through the loop in the back of the main part of your tie then clip the thin part to your shirt below the loop. This will keep your tie perfectly centered without the tie clip showing.

WOMEN
  • Don't wear vivid red lipstick or lip gloss. Stick to softer tones and dab lips with a little powder.
     
  • Consider dress shields if you perspire easily.
     
  • Make sure your hair will stay where you want it. You don't want to be fooling with it while on the air.
     
  • Make sure a lavaliere or lapel microphone and transmitter can be attached to your clothing.
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