Conducting Interviews At TV and Radio Stations

You just received a call from your local radio or TV station to be interviewed on a show to talk about how to make a home safe from fire. What should you do?

When you first get the call, make sure you get the name and telephone number along with the proper call letters of the radio or TV station. Your next question should be: What is the subject of the interview? Other questions should include: How long is the interview? Will the interview be taped or live? Will people be able to call in questions? Are there any special requests from the station?

What is the subject matter? The station may ask what you think it should be. Try to pick a subject that is timely, such as cold-weather safety tips during winter, or fire prevention tips in October for Fire Prevention Week.

Hold their interest

Many times, the host of the program is not knowledgeable about the subject matter that will be discussed. You can offer a list of questions to ask during the program. The host’s job is to make the program interesting so more people will listen or watch. Having interesting questions available only makes the host’s job easier, which will make the program more interesting. The host may ask a question a different way than what you suggested. Also include your name, title/rank and name of your department on the list.

If you are a guest on a TV show, ask if the station would like you to provide props to use during your interview, if they are appropriate. One example is having a smoke alarm to hold up and show while talking about smoke alarms. You can show how easy it is to change the battery or just what a smoke alarm looks like. Other props that I have used on TV sets have been a portable space heater, an extension cord and holiday lights.

Always wear your uniform for interviews. If you wear a white shirt, wear a dark jacket or sweater over it. White is used to program the camera and balance the color. Wearing a white shirt can sometimes make it difficult for the camera person.

Arrive early and relax

Arrive at least 30 minutes early for your interview. This way, you are not stressed and you have time to relax and think about what you are going to discuss. Leave your cell phone, pager and portable radio in your vehicle. Once you start the interview, you will not be able to leave or take yourself out of service. Once inside, you may be asked to wait in the “green room,” which is the waiting room. Take a last trip to the restroom. Check your appearance in the mirror. Sip water to keep your mouth moist; if you are even a little apprehensive about the interview, your mouth will get dry.

Once on the set, they will “mic you up” by stringing a wireless microphone and ask you to be seated. If they are going to show slides or photos, ask if you can see them prior to the interview while they are getting you ready. I do that on a regular basis and found a couple of times they were using the logo or photos of another department instead of mine and we were able to correct it before the show. They will provide you with last-minute instructions and you should ask questions if you have any concerns before the interview.


It’s a conversation

While on the set, look at the host as this is a conversation between two people. Do not look at the camera. There is usually a monitor somewhere that shows what the audience is seeing. You can glance at that from time to time. When the interview is complete, sit tight until they tell you to clear and do not talk until they take the microphone off of you.

At a radio station, instead of a camera, they use a microphone. You will probably sit in a tall seat in front of a microphone. Talk into the microphone in a normal voice and keep your mouth four to six inches from the microphone. You probably will have earphones on to hear your host and to block out other noises in the room. When your interview is complete, sit tight and quiet until they clear you from the studio.

Finally, relax and have fun. If you are confident and relaxed, it will show on TV and in your voice.