One of the recurring challenges I faced as a communications manager was convincing spokespeople to carry out live media interviews.
The simple word ‘live’ had the ability to turn a normally composed and assured spokesperson into a nervous and suddenly reluctant one.
Sometimes there was even a complete refusal to do a live interview. They would simply only agree to pre-recorded interviews.
It was not just the less experienced spokespeople who wobbled at the thought of going live.
It is easy to understand the concern. It is simply the fear of making a mistake which cannot be corrected and will be broadcast to millions of people. What will people think if I mess up? What will my boss think? Could it affect my career?
Participants at the start of our media training courses virtually always state a preference for pre-recorded interviews.
But as daunting as that sounds it is important to overcome this fear.
Here are five reasons why you should always opt for live interviews:
The adrenaline created by being asked to do a live interview actually improves the performance of many spokespeople. They raise their game knowing they only have one attempt to get their messages across to the audience and consequently come across as having more energy.
The safety-net of being able to have another go at interviews during pre-records and their stop / start nature can actually be a hindrance with spokespeople struggling to get messages across despite several attempts. They can sound hesitant and the conversation stilted.
A pre-recorded interview can go on for a long time – often much longer than a live - but sometimes, no matter how good the spokesperson performs, the interview is reduced to a 15 second sound bite.
And as the journalist has complete control over what goes out on air those seconds may not even feature the main message you want to get across.
On a live interview what your spokesperson says will be aired directly to the audience, giving them far more control. And the natural flow of a real conversation offers assured spokespeople more opportunity to use media training techniques such as bridging and sign-posting to ensure they get their messages across.
More air time
Live interviews are generally given more time in news programmes and a more prominent slot, particularly if they take place in the studio.
This means more time to get message across and to drive them home with relatable examples.
Less likely to be bumped
No matter how much time your spokesperson spends on their pre-recorded interview there is no guarantee it will be broadcast that day, the next one, or even the following week. In some cases they may even fall off the news agenda altogether – not an effective use of anyone’s time.
Pre-recorded interviews are much more vulnerable to being bumped in favour of a bigger story or late breaking news.
If you are going live, you know the interview is being broadcast there and then.
No-one expects perfection
Pre-recorded interviews give spokespeople the option to try and perfect answers and avoid mistakes.
But it is worth remembering no-one expects spokespeople to be word perfect. In fact, I can’t ever remember seeing a perfect interview.
The audience will not notice the occasional ‘erm’ or ‘um’ or a stumble over a few words. They will, however, remember your message if you can support it with human examples.
Of course we are not advising you to turn down pre-recorded interviews – they are still a great opportunity. But definitely don’t turn down the chance to go live.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 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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