Media training courses: the difference between a press and a broadcast interview?
July 5, 2019

During our media training courses people often ask: “What’s the difference between a press and a broadcast media interview?” Well, the chances are that even these days you’re more likely to do a print interview and that’s why we offer special press only courses.  Not only do they suit many clients’ budgets but, realistically, they give most people all the skills that they’ll need to make the most of any media opportunities that they’ll get.  Click here for more information about what we offer.

However, seeing yourself on camera and taking a look at how you come across during TV interview is always interesting – not least because it tells you something about your performance during business meetings and presentations.  The participants on our media coaching sessions usually find that they’ve polished up their general business communications skills.

What’s the difference between a press and a broadcast interview?

It’s worth noting, though, that there are a number of differences between press and broadcast media interviews.  The first is that you generally have more time during a press interview.  A print journalist might, for instance, want to speak to you for 10 to 15 minutes to really understand an issue and get to the heart of the story.  Even these days, when newsrooms have been cut to the bone, a print journalist has more time available to them.

media training coursesHowever, a live broadcast interview will probably only last two to three minutes. Even a recorded radio or TV interview will usually only go on for a few minutes.  This can be quite frustrating for journalists who find that there’s just not enough time to take a deep dive into an issue and explore it from all angles.

Journalists aside, what does this difference mean for you as the interviewee? Well, during a press interview you have more time to explain the background and put an issue into context before you go on to answer the specific question that you’ve been asked.  You can always ask the journalist what stage they’re at during their research process.  It may well be that they’re very new to the story and they need you as an expert to give them a crash course and guide them through it.  How much the journalist is likely to know about the subject matter of the interview is something that your PR agency or in house communications department should be able to advise you on.  Otherwise, you can simply ask.  Provided that you do it politely without patronising them most journalists won’t be offended.

Media training courses for law firms

We do a lot of media training for law firms and lawyers are, of course, all about detail.  For them, skimming the surface of an issue, as journalists, do is an anathema.  We have to work hard to reassure them and to show them how to maintain the level of accuracy that they feel comfortable with while giving the journalist the kind of brief summary that works for them.

With a broadcast interview you need to dive in straight away with your key message – there’s simply no time for any kind of preamble.  With our media coaching for lawyers we have to work with them and their communications departments to hone down their messages for TV and radio.

Whether you’re doing a press or a broadcast interview, it’s essential to be focused on what you want the journalist to take away.  As we tell participants in our media training for lawyers and other professions – don’t give the journalist the à la carte menu because they might not choose what you want them to choose.  Offer them the set menu, instead.  This gives you greater control of the media interview and is actually more helpful for the journalist because they don’t have to wade through reams of irrelevant material.

Lists – good for press interviews but not for broadcast

Lists work well when talking to a print journalist but not for broadcast interviews.   This is one of the tips that we give to participants on the media training courses that we offer.  You can lay out your case and structure your argument more formally with the press. If you’re talking to a TV or radio reporter, though, there’s no point in telling them that you’ve got five points to make because you’re unlikely to get past the first or second.

Instead, you might want to mention that there are a number of issues but then choose one or two, focus on them and explain and illustrate them with examples.  This is often a challenge and, again, lawyers and other professionals wouldn’t naturally think like this but it’s better for the journalist – and, again, it gives you as the interviewee more control.

We’re often asked during our media coaching sessions: “What do I do if I don’t know the answer to a question that the journalist puts to me?” Again, there’s a difference here between press and broadcast interviews.  If you’re talking to a print journalist, it’s very easy to say: “Sorry I don’t know that. Let me find out and I’ll come back to you.”  It’s much better to do this than to try and wing it.

However, during a broadcast interview – especially if it’s live – this clearly doesn’t work. Instead, you have to move quickly on to something that you do know and that is relevant to your audience.  Stop dead at “Sorry, I don’t know,” and not only do you put the journalist on the spot (“Yikes! What’s my next question?! Can’t think of one so I’ll go for something a bit left field or I’ll tick the ‘trouble’ box.”) but you miss an opportunity to maintain control of the interview and to introduce a key message.

Is a press interview easier than a TV interview?

Surely a print interview is easier than a broadcast media interview? This is somehting that we often hear in our media training courses.  After all, there are no lights shining in your face, no cameras and microphones and if you lose your train of thought or find yourself with a tickle in your throat there’s plenty of time to recover.  This is true but here’s another thought.  A print journalist might talk to you for 15 minutes but the audience will only read a tiny fraction of this conversation – and, if you’ve wandered off message, it might not be the fraction that you want them to see.   A live TV or radio interview might sound terrifying but we hear every word you say without the journalist editing them and this means that you’re in more control.

There’s also no nuance and no tone in press interviews as people find in our media training courses when we do role press interviews and tell what story would be written.  Laid out in cold black and white your words might not carry exactly the same sense that they did when you uttered them.  A sarcastic remark or a bit of gentle irony often doesn’t translate.  With radio, though, you can use your voice and with TV your facial expressions and body language too, in order to complement your words and communicate your message more holistically and effectively.

As well as getting your message up front, there are a few things that both print and broadcast interviews have in common.  We explore these during our media training courses.  One is the use of examples.  Journalists love them along with stories, anecdotes and case studies.  As we say during the media training courses that we offer – tell a story during a media interview and you’re in control because the journalist will almost certainly let you keep talking.

Media interviews – mind your language

Of course, your stories will have to be slightly more concise during a broadcast interview but either way, don’t forget to stress the point of the anecdote afterwards.  Phrases such as “And the reason why I say that is…” or “And that really goes to show that…” work well.

The other main similarity relates to language.  Even if this is an article for what used to be known as a “broadsheet” newspaper or you’re appearing on a heavy weight news programme such as Newsnight keep your language natural, punchy and conversational.  Think of the “sound bite,” that pithy phrase or summary of your argument that you want the audience to take away with them and repeat it to drive it home.

During your preparation and rehearsal (something that we always recommend during our media training courses) check for any jargon or technical language that your audience might not understand or have to take a few moments to take onboard.

Press and TV interviews require a slightly different approach, as we explain during our media training courses, and each has pros and cons but, whichever you’re doing, remember, the key to doing them well is preparation

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