Recording in 3, 2, 1, Rolling
Janine Allen and Janessa Bishop of Kaiser Lachance Communications share their top tips on remote interviews.
With the shift towards more remote work during COVID-19, members of the media are increasingly relying on virtual interviews through platforms such as Skype and Zoom, as well as live or pre-recorded phone interviews to replace the in-person experience. As with any media interview, it’s important to rehearse key messages and be prepared to navigate difficult questions. However, a remote interview comes with a different set of new challenges and considerations. Our team at Kaiser Lachance Communications compiled this series of tips to help guide your next remote interview:
Pick the right setting
When setting up for your interview, choose a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. Ensure the background isn’t distracting, there are no confidential items in view (trust us, we’ve seen it) and adjust the lighting by using a desk lamp or natural light to eliminate shadows. Be aware of children and pets who may want to make a guest appearance in the background.
Remote Interviews (e.g., via Skype or Zoom)
Put your best face forward
Dress comfortably but professionally, and stick to solid, neutral colors [because] patterns can appear distorted on the screen. Adjust your camera so it meets your eye level and leaves you with a bit of headroom. During the interview, stay focused on the screen and try not to let your eyes wander. You won’t have the luxury of professional lighting and a seasoned camera operator, so get a second opinion from a friend or family member, if possible.
Be mindful of your body language
As with an on-camera interview, too many gestures will distract the audience from your key messages. Be aware of your body movements and ensure your gestures are comfortable and natural. Also be careful of quick movements —if your signal strength isn’t strong enough, you may end up jumping across the screen. Don’t be afraid to engage with the reporter and express emotions, but just remember that you are always on, so beware your “listening face.”
Test, test, test
Make sure you have the correct logins and passwords to access the virtual platform and conduct a test call with the producer or a friend to ensure your account is properly set up. Your PR team can also set up a practice call with the control room, to ensure your video and audio are working correctly. It’s also a good idea to log in to the platform several minutes before the interview to give yourself time to get settled.
Much of our communication is non-verbal, so it’s easy for emotions to get lost in a phone interview. During these types of interviews, remember to keep your energy level up and smile while talking. Standing during the interview is helpful for some but remember not to pace. Think about your tone of voice and speak with vocal projection and clarity.
Check your connection
With any remote interview, it’s imperative to ensure technology is on your side and you have a clear phone connection. If you’re dialing in from a cell phone, make sure you have a strong signal and don’t have any feedback or interruptions on the line. Your PR team can set up a test call with the producer/reporter to do an audio check in advance of the interview.
Know when to stop talking
Prerecorded interviews often have to be edited for time. Keep your responses fulsome and insightful, but brief. This will make the producer’s job easier if they need to clip the interview quotes or shorten the total length of the interview.
Have a key message “cheat sheet”
One advantage of conducting phone interviews is the ability to keep notes and key messages in front of you. However, it’s best to summarize the key messages in your own words and use brief points [to which] you can refer. Do not read your notes word for word. It will become obvious and won’t make for a compelling interview—for you, the reporter, and listeners.
Remote interviews provide an opportunity for journalists to connect with experts around the world. Although these interviews share many similarities to traditional media interviews, it’s important to keep the subtle differences in mind to ensure that every media opportunity is maximized.
At KLC, we work with clients to develop strategies to connect with stakeholders, giving them the confidence to engage in relevant conversations, with an unwavering focus on measurable, impactful results. We’re currently conducting our own remote media training and refresher sessions. If you need help or coaching, please reach out.
Janine Allen is president and partner of KLC. She serves as a senior communications advisor for clients across industries such as retail, real estate, technology, natural resources, and financial and professional services. Janine specializes in developing strategic communications platforms that enhance visibility and transform relationships with key media, stakeholders, and influencers while respecting and aligning with corporate business goals.
Janessa is KLC’s senior director. She’s a seasoned communication professional with experience developing and executing strategic PR and communications programs for a variety of sectors, including healthcare, non-profit, technology, government, and professional services, to help improve their position in the market and differentiated them from competitors. Janessa has worked closely with members of the media for more than a decade and has conducted a number of in-depth media training sessions for clients.