A TV studio on campus allows us to connect with news outlets across the world remotely, meaning researchers can engage with journalists very easily. The media relations team is on hand to facilitate these interviews as required.
Unlike print and online, news stories for broadcast media are rarely able to delve into a subject in as much depth because of time constraints.
When doing broadcast interviews, ask whether the interview is going to be used in short clips, or if the whole interview will run it its entirety. The needs of a journalist working on a news story are different from one working on a longer, current affairs piece. The latter allows you to go into more detail.
If the journalist is looking for clips for a news story, they are looking for short, sound bites about 20 seconds or under in length, since a news story is rarely longer than two minutes in its entirety. If the interview is live or live-to-tape, you can take more time with your answers than if it is for clips. Still aim to keep responses to under a minute in length, or there will not be enough time for a natural exchange with the interviewer.
Live versus recorded
If your interview is for clips, the journalist will likely only use one of your answers. As such, do not refer to previous answers. They won't make sense because the audience has no idea what you are referring to and the journalist likely can't use it. So avoid phrases such as "as I mentioned."
You should always check whether the interview will be aired live, or if it will be recorded for use later. It might seem obvious, but if you’re conducting a live interview you don’t have the opportunity for a do-over. Recorded interviews give you the flexibility to start again if you flub your lines. Don’t be afraid of asking to start over in recorded interviews.
Live-to-tape means the interview will be recorded and run unedited as if it's live. These interviews usually run five to seven minutes in length in total.
Many broadcasters conduct pre-interviews before conducting the interview for air. The pre-interview allows the journalist to get a sense of how you will answer certain questions, and see if there is anything that might be an obstacle for the audience. It is also an opportunity for you to get a sense of what questions will come at you during the main event. The pre-interview is also a golden opportunity to steer the conversation towards the points you want to make by stressing your key messages.
Ask for a glass of water or have one handy to eliminate dry mouth, which can happen when we're nervous, under hot studio lights, or talking for a long time. Quietly take a sip of water when the interviewer is asking a question, if you need it. The effects of dry mouth are audible in broadcast interviews.
If a reporter comes to interview you, you’ll receive instructions on how and where to sit or stand from the journalist. Typically, you will answer questions looking at the reporter, off-camera.
If the interview takes place in a studio and the interviewer is in another location, you should look directly into camera. In almost all cases unless told otherwise, look into the camera lens for the entire interview until the interviewer releases you. In this situation, you will normally wear a small ear-piece to hear the questions.
There is no makeup service available to you in the campus studio or one in a newsroom. Use powder if you have shiny skin. Studio lights are bright and can wash you out, so it is recommended but not essential, that you wear makeup.
Avoid wearing all-black or all-white clothing. Don’t wear small check patterned materials or skinny stripes, which create a distracting strobe effect on camera. If you wear glasses, make sure they are clean and smear-free.
If the on-camera interview is not in a studio location, think about a relevant place for it. It will almost always be your office or lab.
In addition to the interview, a broadcast team will often want to get shots of you to illustrate the description of you in the script. This is called b-roll, cover, or set-up shots. Working on the computer, talking telephone or walking shots are overused, so a journalist will appreciate it if you have other suggestions that are relevant to the story and reason he or she is interviewing you. Being able to demonstrate the research is a great benefit.
Radio interviews tend to more straightforward to arrange that for TV, but remember that the audience does not have the benefit of visuals to support the storytelling. Radio news packages tend to be even short than TV packages – maybe a minute in length. This means it is essential that you get to the heart of your point in any interview quickly and with clear, easily understandable language.
Audio quality is of major importance in a radio interview so that there is nothing to distract the listener from the story. Typically interviews will take place over the phone.
Where possible take the call on a landline instead of a mobile telephone because there is less of a chance of dropping the call. Conduct the interview from a quiet room where interruptions and ambient noise are unlikely.