Television interviews with great visuals instantly grab viewers’ attention. Yet many public relations firms fail to plan their visual content before approaching TV producers. In a multi-media world, public relations isn’t just about text-based press releases or well-written speeches; audio-visual elements are increasingly becoming standard public relations tools.
“Nothing is more boring than watching two talking heads,” says Brad Matson, producer of Breakfast Television, Toronto’s most watched morning program. “You have to bring something to the table — literally — when coming on a talk show. Even if the host doesn’t refer to what’s being displayed, it provides the audience with a reference point for the conversation, and variety for the camera.”
A list of audio-visual elements should be at the front of the press kit a public relations firm submits to a TV producer about a client. Attach a proposal letter, discussing the interview’s visual strengths.
“The first sentence should highlight what can be brought for discussion,” Matson says. “Starting the letter with ‘Would you like to see the world’s oldest bone? The biggest starfish collection? All of Elton John’s old sunglasses?’ should be more captivating than talking about what kind of expert your client is in these areas.”
In an on-air media interview–i.e. seminars, book launches–public relations firms should coach clients to show as they tell. An allergist cutting open a variety of fruits and vegetables to discuss food allergies, or a repair specialist showing the most practical tools for a do-it-yourself project are some of the ways speakers can liven up a standard media interview.
When in doubt about selecting accompanying audio-visual elements, bring them all. Let the producer decide what to use on-air. If a number of them make for good television, it will be to your credit in future dealings.
To prepare, make sure your visual offerings are ready for use. “It can be as simple as putting fresh batteries in a gadget [presented on-air]. Even taking items out of the box for touch-and-see can make or break the interview,” he says.
However, signs and text should be avoided. “Don’t display posters or brochures. These will be unreadable, and come across as cheesy,” Matson says. “Graphs and computer screens also go over poorly with general viewing audiences.”
The same applies to promotional merchandise. “Audiences can smell an infomercial. If you wear a company T-shirt with your web site address we will pull you off the air. Let the host mention any promotions, and the director flash your contact information across the screen. This will give you more credibility.”
As motion is most effective, propose a demonstration with host/audience participation when appropriate. “It’s unbelievable how many fitness experts releasing videos don’t offer a live demonstration,” Matson says “Doing so puts you ahead of the pack. Make sure to suggest exercises that the host can easily do with you on the show.”
Other demonstrations require on-the-spot replication. For instance, a test of water quality and filtration products should be achievable with tap water in studio. This will give the producer peace of mind that the demonstration is credible. Like a business article, a public relations firm should provide statistics from a reputable source to back your client’s claims. The figures will provide the host with a strong lead-in statement for your client’s introduction.
In business interviews, computer presentations and recorded “b-roll” footage are more acceptable to niche audiences, provided they are well executed.
“You may have an e-commerce web site that’s easy to use, but if you can’t demonstrate it on-air, it will look like a dud,” says B.J. DelConte, supervising producer of CablePulse 24 (CP24), a Canadian cable news network seen worldwide (http://www.pulse24.com). “It’s not easy to show money, so if you can do it in a clear two minute piece, your golden.”
This article, written by Adam Bello, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.