Radio – Television – Print
Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Usually you’ll talk for half an hour or more to a reporter who doesn’t really know an awful lot about the subject. He or she probably has eight or ten other stories to finish by tomorrow lunchtime, and doesn’t have a whole lot of time to write and polish what you say. You might get quoted wrongly, or certainly out of context. It isn’t malicious – just pressure of time. Usually. So be clear and concise in what you say. If the reporter has been told that the story will be eight hundred to a thousand words, say, he or she doesn’t want every little detail about the project. Short, clear answers mean you’re less likely to be quoted wrongly. Have ready a half page briefing sheet you can hand over. It should contain the main facts – names, numbers, addresses, etc, that you would like to see in print.
This might well be live, so there’s little chance of being wrongly quoted! But you might well be miss-heard. Very few people sit down to listen to the radio; they’re probably driving or cooking or ironing. So unless you’re short and succinct, you could be misheard. Again, short and sweet is the recipe. Unless you’re a potential prime minister or film star, you’ll probably be given two to three minutes on air. That’s, say, a hundred and fifty words. Can you sum up all the advantages of your project in 150 words?
Albert Mehrabian, who made a speciality of observing how people watched and reacted to various forms of information, did a lot of research into how people percieved television interviews.
His findings confirm what television producers and directors had felt for years – you have to look good to do well. Like it or not, that’s how people percieve you, your organisation or product.
This is what Mehrabian found about the aspects of an interviewee that influence the viewer:
What you say:
How you say it:
How you look:
That’s it! More than half the viewer’s assessment of you is how well your shirt is ironed!
Well it’s not that simple of course; the hair, make-up, colours, etc, all play their part, but it’s still 55%. The bit you worry most about – what to say – is almost irrelevant to the recipient! It’s all about looking good. So what do you do if you’ve got Prince Charles ears, a wide centre parting, a nose like a hatchet and zits all over your face? Smile – that’s what. Of course it’s not as simple as that, but read on. You’ll be surprised how even the plainest of us can come across as user-friendly. The main thing is you must have something to say. And then say it. Now that might sound a bit Irish; I’ve just told you that the viewer is hardly at all interested in what you say. But you must have something to say in order to feel right, in order to look right. You need the kind of confidence that comes from knowing you’ve got good things to say. Most of a viewer’s perception of a speaker is made up of the visual elements. Only 7% is governed by what he or she says. So you don’t have to worry about what you say. Or do you?
Wandering off the subject…
If you go to Savile Row and spend five thousand pounds on a suit, have a shirt made in Jermyn Street and fork out a few hundred for a Hermes tie you’ll look brilliant. But get exactly the same outfit from Ah Wong’s tailor shop in Kowloon and you’ll look rubbish. Exactly the same kit, two different looks. Because you don’t wear them the same. You haven’t got that “I spent five thousand on this suit” feel. In the same way, although the viewer doesn’t much care what you say, you’ll only look good if you’re ready with five thousand quids worth of answers!