Are online media interviews here to stay?

Little by little more normality is returning to our lives.

We are now able to meet more people, play some sports and non-essential shops have opened their doors for the first time in months.

Slowly, increasing numbers of people are returning to work.

One of the many big changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic was the way broadcast news was delivered.

Face-to-face interviews in the studio were almost entirely replaced by ones carried out on a video link.

But will this change back again as social distancing restrictions are increasingly relaxed or are remote video link interviews going to continue to be the ‘new normal’?

Will we return to the way the media landscape was before coronavirus?

My belief is that there will be a return to studio interviews and to help prepare spokespeople for this we are reopening our broadcast quality studios for face-to-face media training on July 6.

But I also believe that online interviews, carried out through Zoom or Microsoft Teams, are here to stay and that they will continue to form a key part of news broadcasts, particularly on the 24 news channels or with smaller regional broadcasters who are budget conscious.

Imagine, there is some breaking news. Would a news channel wait until a spokesperson could visit the studio or send a reporter to interview them at their office? Or would they opt for an online interview?

In a world where there is so much pressure on being first with the breaking news, being able to send someone a link to use to carry out an interview has many obvious advantages.

You could potentially have that spokesperson on air in minutes and all geographical barriers are overcome.

That not only offers obvious advantages for the journalist but also for the organisation at the centre of a story. At a time where clickbait, disinformation and fakery thrive, it has never been more important to get your message out quickly and try to control the narrative, particularly when you are dealing with a crisis media management incident.

Virtual or remote interviews allow you to do that to an audience of millions.

Previously when a spokesperson couldn’t make it into the main studio for an interview, they would appear instead on screen through a down-the-line interview.

These provided hugely differing experiences for spokespeople. Some would take place in comfortable modern regional studios where there would be a technician on hand to help get the set-up right.

Others would take place in studios that are remote in every sense of the word. In some cases, the spokesperson would have to let themselves into the building – which sometimes resembled little more than a shed - and turn the equipment on. It is perhaps not surprising that many spokespeople told us on our media training courses that they found this the most daunting interview format.

Now, they just need to click on a link from the comfort of their own home, or office when more of us return to work.

But, thanks partly to their accessibility we are also witnessing some really poor spokespersons performances when interviewing on videoconference. This is not dissimilar to telephone interviews. Complacency often goes hand in hand with familiarity.

The other key point here is that coronavirus has had a huge impact on the UK’s media industry, particularly newspapers. Advertising revenues and sales have dropped and national newspaper journalists have been furloughed despite growth in online readership.

Many newspapers, particularly regional and local ones, were struggling before the pandemic and journalists were increasingly being asked to do more for less.

Coronavirus is likely to increase that situation and that means the time-pressed reporter will be less likely to be able to leave the newsroom for interviews and more dependent on phones and online channels.

What does this mean for organisations and their spokespeople?

Well, the standard of interviews on Zoom and Microsoft Teams does appear to have improved slightly as the coronavirus lockdown has continued.

I have certainly spent less time staring up people’s nostrils and becoming distracted by cluttered backgrounds.

But we still see plenty of examples that could be improved or where the message has become lost.

You may remember last month, for example, the CEO of Rolls Royce had to apologise after producing a distracted performance and appearing to laugh while being interviewed on the BBC about job losses.

While the principles of interviews remain the same, there are some particular things spokespeople should and shouldn’t do in these online formats to come across well and ensure they land their message successfully.

Just like studio interviews and down-the-line interviews, spokespeople perform best in virtual interviews when they have had specific media training for that format.

And with these interviews expected to remain a key part of the media landscape beyond the current pandemic, a specific training course on online interviews offers a long-term investment.

 

Find out more about our training by videoconference options, including media training crisis mead management, presentation skills and media management.

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

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