Media interviews demand brevity

media relations, interviewBeing able to communicate in a concise, compelling way maximizes your message during a media interview.

The ability to crystallize your thoughts and speak in simple terms is one of the most important things I address during speaker and media training.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, particularly if you are in a technical profession such as IT, medicine or law, but the ability to speak in plain English is invaluable.

Picture a physician who needs to help patients understand their care – the more a patient comprehends, the greater the chance they will follow their treatment plan. Pediatricians are particularly good at communicating with families. After all, when you’re working with kids, simple is best.

Understand what the media wants

Too often, though, the thought of being interviewed on TV brings out the “high talker” in sources – the need to impress media with their huge vocabulary. Rather than impress, these folks frustrate media. Reporters want sound bites, not books.

It’s important to view the interview from their angle. Mainstream media need to make news accessible for the lowest common denominator. When you provide a complicated answer, they need to break it down into easy-to-understand concepts, which makes their job harder.

And, if you aren’t clear, you increase the odds that the story will be inaccurate. Is that what you want? Do yourself a favor and simplify, simplify, simplify.

When you have at most three minutes for a TV interview, brevity is the coin of the realm, and it needs to be spent wisely. I train speakers to eliminate nonsense phrases that take up valuable time.

Here are some of the most common examples – and how they can be shortened.

  • At this point in time (now)
  • At the end of the day (ultimately)
  • 12 noon (noon)
  • Close proximity (proximity means close)
  • In spite of the fact (although)

Virtually everyone has a pet phrase that they unconsciously use. Once you know what it is, it’s easier to avoid.  Here’s one simple trick: Focus. Focus. Focus.

Get it? Got it? Good.


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PR Tip

How to Craft a Successful TV pitch

Always remember that, when pitching the media, it’s important to consider what they want.

And what does TV news want most of all? Visuals, and lots of them.

Today’s audiences like action, and lots of it. With the advent of social media, attention spans are dwindling by the second. In order to grab and keep viewers, you have to keep offering information that is interesting and relevant.

No media outlet wants to air a static interview where you see only talking heads. Think about B-roll, background video that you can provide to help illustrate your story. Consider using statistics to create a graphic. Offer before and after photos, provide logos of your business, write bullet points that can be superimposed, or “supered,” onscreen, give them your web address, etc.

Most important, remember it’s not all about what you want. To successfully pitch a topic, consider what audiences want, and you’ll likely get the chance to tell your story.

What Sue’s Clients Say

Sue has an extraordinary ability to connect with the media. She is gifted at finding angles that appeal to news directors and reporters and is meticulous in preparing her guests for interviews. Sue worked with Stillwaters Cancer Support Services to promote our annual Hospital Food Fight fundraiser. Not only did she secure a slot for us on The Morning Blend, our target audience, but she walked us through every aspect of the interview.

Immediately after the show aired, registrations and calls were coming in. We got rave reviews for our interview skills on the show, and it was all because of Sue’s expert coaching. She also helped promote the interview and the event via social media. I can’t recommend her highly enough - her media connections, media training, writing and editing are stellar.

Theresa Reagan, Executive Director, Stillwaters Cancer Support Services, Waukesha, Wis.