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Preparing for Your TV Interview

Giving your first television interview need not be as daunting as you first feared. Here are some things you can do to ensure that the interview goes well. It’s as simple as A-B-C. Preparation is key!

Framing the Interview

Ask questions before hand with the researcher who first calls you, through to the journalist who will be interviewing you. What do they want specifically to talk to you about? Will anyone else be interviewed.? This allows you to evaluate your role in the news story. Are you the primary lead to the story, the expert or are you secondary, providing a response?

Where will the interview take place?

It’s an obvious question that follows on from the above. Is it in the studio, suggesting that you’re of significant importance to the telling of the story or will you be interviewed on location? If the latter, will it be outside or inside and why?

In television there is a hierarchy of images.

Generally, if you are interviewed in the studio, either recorded or live, you are central to the narrative. If interviewed in the street you may only be a vox pop, one of a number of members of the public asked to respond with their opinion.

Dress the Set

Cameras don’t think for themselves, that’s why we employ camera operators specifically to frame and capture the best shots. Therefore, think about your location in advance and what does it say about you.

I once worked as the PR for a prisoners and families charity providing services within the criminal justice system. My director was to be interviewed responding to the announcement of some new, but minor prison policy change. The minister was interviewed first in his office while my director was interviewed on the street. He made some valuable observations contextualising the change but pointing out that more was needed and that the prison service was delaying reform. That night, when I watched the edited version broadcast on the news, I could see that the cars wizzing past in the background undermined my director’s credibility and authority.

What could I have offered the TV crew instead? I could have offered an interview in the director’s office with him sitting behind his desk with bookshelves in the background packed with books and reports on prison policy. As the charity ran services with family centres outside the prisons, I could have offered an interview from one of the family centre’s close to the prison. That way I could have endeared myself to the TV producer helping him or her to visually illustrate the story, images of the prison from the outside, images of the visitor centre with our logo on the signage and my director interviewed in a family centre softening the subject images.

What do you want to say?

Don’t wait until the journalist asks you the question to work out what it is you want to say.

Before s/he arrives jot down three points you want to address in your interview. Now reduce that to three key words. Have you got any statistics or facts to back up your points? Can you illustrate your point with a short but relevant anecdote? While the crew are setting up their equipment talk to the journalist and specifically ask what s/he wants to ask you. Help them frame their questions by indicating the main points you would like to cover. Generally, journalists are working against the clock and will normally be helpful in advance of the interview because they want you to perform well so they can edit together the different strands of their story.

Use the ABC Approach

The ABC approach will help you to master the interview. AAnswer or address the journalist’s question. This will normally be the who, why, where and what question to begin with. B - now Bridge and get across your first point. This might go something like this: “We welcome the Minster’s announcement today – however I don’t think it goes far enough. .” Or “. . . it’s long overdue and fails to address the key issue. Now C - Communicate stating one of the points you want to get across.

Newscaster reading the news in the studio
The studio interview

How do you Look

I’ve saved this until the last point, but it is thee critically important part of your TV interview preparation. The journalist will be familiar to the viewing audience, you may not be. Therefore, you want to be dressed appropriately for the programme format of your interview. What do presenters wear in the studio? Follow their lead.

Your dress code should not undermine your message. Turn down the noise.

Remember the traffic in the background earlier? Visually you want to ensure the pictures do not detract from your message. Plain shirts and blouses, jackets and ties and no or little jewellery. Your visual image should reinforce your, and your organisations, credibility. Project measured confidence, even if you don't feel it.


In summary preparation is the key to giving a good TV interview. Establish as much information as possible about the interview topic and format, prepare your key points in advance, use the ABC system to hone your message, take control of the environment for your interview and dress appropriately for the programme format.

© Fergus Cooper

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