The seven deadly sins of television interviews

In the world of television news there are a multitude of sins that can have an adverse effect on the person being interviewed and/or the organisation they represent. Some sins are worse than others but regardless they will all lead to a bad experience that can leave a reputation in tatters.

Below are seven of the deadliest of all sins, with some best practice advice on how to avoid them:

  1. Sloth – the avoidance of any work. Going into a television interview without researching the journalist, the program or who watches it. It’s like kicking a goal and having no idea where the post is. We’ve seen it before unfortunately. The interviewee says little of interest to the audience or has lost them through jargon and irrelevant information.

Penance: Do (or delegate someone else to) some research on past programs, watch a few, get an idea of the program and the host’s tone, then formulate your messages accordingly.

  1. Gluttony – overindulgence. This takes the form of going on and on about yourself and/or your organisation without consideration for what the audience might be interested in.

Penance: Find a medium between what you want to say and how it is relevant to the viewing audience. Give the audience something over and above product/service information to leave them feeling informed.

  1. Wrath – anger and/or uncontrolled feelings of hatred. Getting heated in a television interview – no matter how hostile the question – is a really bad look – it says ‘guilty’, ‘defensive’ and nothing good about your personality.

Penance: Develop and practice answers to the questions you don’t want to be asked. If you are prepared well enough, you will be in control when the tough questions are asked.

  1. Envy – resentment of what others have. This is slamming the competition and being negative about what others are doing.

Penance: Practice talking about your strengths and how you are different from others without needing to point out their flaws.

  1. Lust – an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body. You want your 15 minutes of fame and you don’t care how you get it – so you call yourself an expert when the truth is you aren’t an expert at all. You are asked a question you have no idea about but you answer it anyway.

Penance: Only agree to speak about what you know and let the journalist know your areas of expertise in advance. If, during an interview, you are asked something you don’t know, then be honest and tell the journalist exactly that.

  1. Greed – desire for material wealth. You have just forgotten the golden rule of PR, which is to ‘make aware or inform’ not sell. You are so caught up with your sales spiel you don’t realise the journalist and the audience have switched off and you will most likely never be invited back as a guest.

Penance: Develop a conversational language style which allows you to talk with your audience not at them.

  1. Pride – excessive belief in one’s own abilities. The original and most serious sin of all. It is the belief you are so good at what you do you don’t need any help. You may know your topic but if you have not had extensive experience or training in being interviewed you could do irreparable damage to yourself and your organisation.

Penance: Get professional media training. Don’t ask your work colleagues to do it -they will be too scared to tell you the truth. Get outside help and do it BEFORE you do the interview.

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