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Advice from a Former CNBC Producer 

By Dorian Langlais

I always knew I was meant to be a broadcast journalist. Inspired by watching ABC News’ Peter Jennings in studio as a kid, I interned at CourtTV for O.J. Simpson attorney Johnnie Cochran while a student at the University of Southern California. After graduation, I worked at E! Entertainment in Los Angeles and then in New York with Lester Holt at MSNBC before joining CNBC full-time. For seven years, I booked and produced live interviews with U.S. presidents and corporate CEOs for Closing Bell featuring Maria Bartiromo.

Today at Rally Point, I’m able to keep my passion for broadcast alive by helping shape client stories and conducting in-depth media prep sessions. We’ve helped dozens of clients elevate their presence in local and national press and prepare for interactions with print and broadcast journalists by learning and effectively deploying a few key tactics.

How reporters craft stories

To understand how this works, it’s helpful to understand how reporters create a story. The process starts when reporters present their ideas in editorial meetings, which are assessed for timeliness, points of controversy, and audience interest. Once the story is a go, reporters or producers begin gathering the elements including research, quotes, charts and, of course,  sources or guests. Most journalists have a stockpile of go-to sources for all sorts of topics. 

Preparing for an interview

Being regularly featured as a source builds credibility and enhances an individual’s reputation and ultimately their firm’s brand. On the flip side, broadcast appearances gone bad can have the opposite effect. A critical part of being an effective source or spokesperson for your organization is preparation. 

First, it’s important to understand who your audience is and how much they know. If they know less about the subject matter, then be prepared to educate them. If they’re more knowledgeable, you should be prepared with a more elevated message and for more sophisticated questions from the host.

You should also think about what you want your audience to take away from the interview. What is your main message; what are your proof points including data or third party research; and finally, what’s in it for them? 

And, remember, don’t just spew facts and figures; be conversational, passionate, engaged, and charismatic – someone they’d want to discuss the topic with over a cup of coffee. 

Three key steps before every broadcast interview: 

  • Rehearse:  Review your messaging and talking points to make sure you can stay focused and on topic. There’s nothing worse than leaving the studio or ending the interview, only to remember you forgot to make your most important point! Write down and rehearse aloud the points you plan to cover, including facts and figures to back up your claims. Be very prepared for how you’ll respond if you’re asked anything controversial or if you have to explain “bad” news.
  • Research: Know everything you can about the reporter conducting the interview – previous stories, what they’ve covered before, where they went to school, hometown, even favorite teams, etc. Also, if you’re booked because of a news event, understand the story well. If you’re working with a PR Agency like Rally Point, we’ll give you a briefing document to help prepare you for the interview.
  • Anticipate: Prepare to answer difficult questions about your company or recent news. Be aware of your critics’ arguments and be prepared to actively rebut any points. You’re the expert and you know the subject matter, which is why the journalist has come to you. So, don’t be afraid to guide the interview to talk about what you know to be important.
  • Take Control: Be prepared to start the interview with your message – who you are, what your company does and why you’re there. Taking a step back to lay out these facts can be helpful to you and ensure that you get your message out right at the top of the interview. 

Perfecting your messaging

Make your messaging memorable, comprehensible, and effective. Focus on “know and show” – know your messaging and then use data and examples to guide your audience to the conclusion. Your ability to persuade will depend on how well you deliver your message and the strength of your facts. Finally, don’t forget to account for adversarial points of view. It’s entirely possible that your audience or your interlocutor has an opposing point of view. Be prepared, answer briefly and bridge to another topic. It’s important not to  seem like you’re avoiding  the subject before pivoting.

It’s all worth it!

Preparing for any interview – especially a live one on TV – is essential to get the most out of it. If you want to get started but need a little help, subscribe to my free three-part media training video series.

Free Media Training Video Series

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