A Checklist for Remote Media Interviews

Here’s an excerpt from my new book, Reporters Don’t Hate You: 100+ Amazing Media Relations Strategies, available wherever books are sold.

Interviews conducted over video conferencing services were becoming trendier. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and their frequency, well, zoomed up.

Who knows? A couple of years from now we could be back to holding interviews much as we have done in the past. That’s my guess, and it is only a guess. It may not hold true if we experience another pandemic or a calamity of a different sort.

Keep these guidelines in mind when talking to reporters through your computer or mobile device:

  • If you are not familiar with the technology, practice with a colleague or friend beforehand to iron out any kinks.
  • Sign on early in case you need a bit of time to sort out any technical glitches.
  • As with SMTs [satellite media tours], keep your messages streamlined since you are likely to have limited time.
  • Invest in an HD camera and a dedicated microphone. The microphones that come with your computer’s camera are getting better, but still can suffer from low quality.
  • Look into the camera lens. Too many interviewees stare at themselves or the reporter on the monitor, skewing their eye contact and diminishing the connection with viewers. As with SMTs, that lens assumes the role of your interviewer.
  • Position your camera so that it is level with your eyes. Set your monitor, laptop, or tablet on a stack of books if need be. No one wants a view up your nose.
  • Lighting is important. Avoid glaring bare bulbs that make you look ghostly. And don’t keep things too dark. Place a soft light in front of you and, when possible, a soft backlight on the floor behind you. Ring lights work well, as do diffused LED lights on a collapsible tripod.
  • Aim for an attractive, professional looking background. Green screens can work if you have a physical backdrop. Take a pass on those virtual backgrounds offered by services like Zoom. The technology isn’t nearly as good, making it too easy for you to merge into the background with comical results.
  • Do not sit in front of windows. The glare during daylight hours leaves you looking like a dark shadow. Plus, the dazzling brightness proves taxing to viewers.
  • Similarly, do not sit in front of a mirror. Activity across the room or elsewhere in your house could be clearly visible.
  • Dress and groom like a grownup. I never fail to be impressed by people who wear suits when on television even when interviewed from home. Mussed hair and ratty t-shirts are no-nos. Business attire, a shave, and makeup convey a professional look and feel.
  • Keep kids, dogs, etc., at bay throughout.
  • Inform family members when you plan to participate in a video call so they can avoid hollering across the house, traipsing across the background, etc.

No matter the format, be prepared for the reporter who asks whether they missed anything or if you want to add a final thought. You will not hear this question every time, but when you do, you’ve struck gold. This gives you a wide open opportunity to conclude your business deal one of two ways: 1) Restate briefly the essence of your message, emphasizing the leg of your message that best reaches the target audience for this media outlet and 2) if you have forgotten to mention one of your main message points, you’ve just been gifted a second chance.

Once your interview has ended, don’t hesitate to pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Reporters Don’t Hate You is the third in a series to help you sharpen your communications edge. If you haven’t yet read A+ Strategies for C-Suite Communications and the second edition of The Truth About Public Speaking, get your copies here.

From the HAAO Department (Help an Author Out, h/t Peter Shankman):

  1. Forward this blog post to three professional colleagues who are likely to have interest.
  2. Post your thoughts about the book on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or your favorite digital media channels. Here’s the link to use in your posts: https://www.barkscomm.com/reportersdonthateyou . Add the hashtags #ReportersDontHateYou #MediaRelations #MediaStrategy #PR
  3. Once you’ve read the book, submit your honest review to your favorite bookseller’s website (Amazon and Barnes and Noble and the big players here).
  4. Share that same review on my Goodreads page.

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