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More Media Interview Tips for Public Relations Pros

Recently I appeared on the CNBC show Kudlow and Cramer. I’d like to use that on-camera experience to offer up a little advice for any public relations pros who suddenly find themselves (or their clients) booked for any sort of televised media interview. It’s not as scary as you may have thought.

I gave myself plenty of time to get to the studio, showing up about fifteen minutes early, which gave me extra time to look over some notes and get into makeup. Yes, you’ll probably have to wear makeup, whether powder on your face to cut down on glare, concealer to reduce blemishes, or a little spray to keep wild hairs down. It never hurts to say “please” and “thank you” a lot to someone applying your makeup.

The onsite producers were very nice and helpful. After grabbing a bottle of water for me, the producers told me to relax in a conference room. I asked a few questions — whether there would be a monitor for me to see the hosts and what type of cue I would receive when ready to go on — and sat back and watched television. Another guest came in and we chatted a bit; media interviews are excellent networking opportunities.

About eight minutes before I went on the air, the CEO of a well-known internet company was interviewed. To put it mildly, he looked terrible, wearing an ugly sweater and messy hair. He was grilled by the hosts and  kept looking away from the camera. His shareholders no doubt took notice of his awkward appearance.

Go over your notes while waiting for your cue so you feel prepared. I was mic’d and given an earpiece; I did a quick sound test to make sure they worked properly. The studio was really just a soundproof room with a camera and a backdrop. The producer told me to keep my upper body erect so I would stay in the shot and not appear to slouch.

Host Kudlow’s lead-in was pretty quick, setting me up with an easy question. I listened closely, smiled and nodded assuredly, and thenpretty much just blurted something out. It was a good answer though, one that set a humorous tone for the interview, especially given the material I was working with (talking about voice-over-internet protocol).

The questioning was rather brisk, but I don’t think I left any questions “hanging.” At one point I rattled off what amounted to an advertisement for a specific company. It wasn’t hype, just a demonstration that I had the information down pat. This is one reason why I do enjoy working with public relations contacts. Before the show, I called a number of public relations departments and asked for specific information about their companies, rather than spending several hours on independent research. All the PR people I spoke with came through big time.

I did have the opportunity to knock a company, with the stats to back up my critique. In doing so, I excited Cramer, who began yelling about the company. I plugged a fellow New York Post columnist who had written about the company, surely making my editors happy. I planned the plug well ahead of time. But why?

For me, the purpose of agreeing to this media interview was not only to talk about this subject — which I do find interesting — but to also promote my work. This is why most people go on TV; few public relations firms, unless a client is overexposed or entrenched in a scandal, turn down an opportunity for a TV interview. Public relations firms should plot out ahead of time how to best promote their client or company. Determine how to plug your company without coming off like an advertisement.

The interview ended with a question that allowed me to make a strong statement, and I let fly with an answer that made some people very happy and some people very mad. But it was the best way to leave a lasting impression. As the interview wraps, be sure to thank your hosts for the opportunity.

My final tips? Come prepared, be sure you look good, and sound confident. You don’t have to dress or act overly formal; loosening up a bit, while staying on topic, will help you look smart, a little edgy, newsy, and on the ball. Believe me, you can only watch corporate CEOs and stock analysts for so long before you need a little laugh. You can provide that, too.

Follow up on the appearance by emailing the hosts and thanking them; throw in an offer to return whenever they’d like. I did the same with the producer who booked me and the response was positive. The biggest takeaway I got from the experience was that being prepared makes all the difference. I felt that much more confident thanks to the few hours I spent preparing for just five minutes of airtime.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, 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/.

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