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Monday, March 22, 2010

Tips for Live Interviews ~ Kathy Willis, Publicist

Authors look for interview opportunities to help brand them, build name recognition, and promote any current book releases. My firm is often asked to coach authors as they prepare for their upcoming interviews with media. This media might be: radio (either in-studio or by phone), television (live or taped), print publications, or Internet. Today and during our next guest post, we will coach you to be a gracious interview guest. By following these tips, you will engage with your host and audience, and will accomplish the goals set in place when scheduling this exposure.

· Watch casual remarks. Keep in mind that nothing is really off the record, and anything you say may end up in print.

· Answer every question. “No comment” is never an acceptable answer. You will find a way to avoid certain issues by transitioning to other topics. Use “bridges” to steer the conversation to a new topic, in order to avoid sticky questions, or to get to the meat of your message. One example of bridging is, “That's a good question, but the more important issue here, which is...”

· Flag key points. When you're speaking, use “flags” to signal key points. Let the reporter know youʼre about to make a main point by using an indicator phrase such as, “the key point is ...” or “the important thing to remember is ...”

· Be interesting. If you are passionate about your subject, it will help make a better story.

· Women, bring your own makeup in case no makeup artist is available at the studio. If no artist is available, touch up your eyes and give yourself more color. Wear lip color!

· Even when they say a makeup artist is available, be prepared to do your own makeup if the hosts are late and the artist is tied up doing their makeup until airtime.

· Be rested and avoid puffy eyes by using a cool compress across your eyes before applying makeup to have a more refreshed look for those early morning interviews. Or, if you know your skin is agreeable to the product, try Preparation H for puffy eyes.

· Get someone with fashion sense to advise you. The visuals are all-important on TV. Dress like you mean it, at the level to which you're aspiring. Consider your branding to select the appropriate image. Keep in mind that the person interviewing you will most likely be wearing a smart suit, and have had a haircut recently.

· During a television interview, when you are not actually speaking, always keep a pleasant look on your face. You never know when the producers will switch to a shot of you.

· There will often be a "monitor" (a television screen placed somewhere off-camera that faces you and shows the on-air "talent" what's being broadcast). Don't look at it! If you are looking at it and the producers switch to a shot of you at that moment, you will appear to be looking down and away from your host, as though you are distracted or not paying attention. Also, anyone watching the program that is familiar with television production will know that you are looking at yourself.

· Donʼt stiffen up. Lean forward now and then while talking to the host. The audience is quickly bored by mere conversation (“talking heads”).

· Speaking of “heads,” avoid the bobble-head look of vigorously shaking your head yes. It really accentuates double chins and stretched or wrinkled skin around the neck, and also looks unprofessional.

· Watch newscasters with the sound off to see how they talk. What you'll see may surprise you. They use a lot of body movements. Since many camera angles are from the shoulders up, that means that all the interest normally provided by human motion has to be compressed into the head, shoulders, and perhaps hands. Don't go crazy; don't make yourself look foolish. But put a little more energy into your conversation than you normally might. As Marshall McLuhan famously observed, television is a cool medium. It craves heat—and it's up to you to provide it.

· Think about a host you like and emulate his/her style. Heʼs probably at ease, direct and affable. You too can pull of this winning combination.

· If you are debating someone, keep a pleasant look on your face. Even viewers who agree with your opponent will like you and take you seriously if you appear calm, reasonable, and pleasant.

· This isnʼt a game show requiring you to beat the others to the buzzer, so you have a moment to collect your thoughts before answering a question. Take it.

· If you donʼt understand a question, ask the interviewer to repeat it.

· If you stumble or make a mistake, correct yourself immediately. You want to make the most of this opportunity. If the interview is being taped and you donʼt like an answer you gave, ask to start over.

· The importance of story—personal examples trump statistics.

· The host is human too—donʼt be intimidated.

· Be relevant.

· Raise your eyebrows or stand on your tippee toes (if a radio interview) to project positive energy (but avoid being hyper like a Chihuahua).

· Your talking points.

· Breathe in, breathe out—relax and enjoy the process.

· Be flexible to adapt to whatever they throw your way.

· Be available.

· Have your book (or your project) fresh in mind—re-read it if necessary.

Kathy Carlton Willis own her own communications firm and enjoys shining the light on others as they shine THE Light. She’s also wife to Russ, mom to fur babies, family and friend to many, and pastor’s wife to her church family. Find her on all the social networking sites, as well as her professional blog:

Write Kathy at with your questions on how to promote your books and your branding.


  1. Wow, thanks for the info! Someone tell Mr. DeMille I'm ready for my close up. ;-)


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