How to Handle Difficult TV Interviews

With TV still holding out as the main source that UK adults turn to for their news, it is worth considering as an outlet to gain exposure for your brand, and interviews can be a brilliant way to do this. Yet there can be some trepidation in doing so. When we go in front of an audience we want to believe that they will like us, and that the whole thing will go positively and smoothly. But what if it doesn't?

A television - how will you handle a difficult TV interview?

Regardless of who you are, there are many reasons why an interviewer may ask you awkward or uncomfortable questions, or ones that are utterly unexpected. Let’s look at how to handle difficult TV interviews and situations that may not be the most comfortable, but which can still be a success in terms of getting your brand out there, and responding to current events. 


How to prepare for a media interview

Any form of media interview, whether it be for a current news story or something closer to home – e.g. a new product or positive research results – can be a daunting prospect. Yet it needn’t be so. With careful planning, even reactive interviews on negative stories can show your company in the best light possible. 

Frame each appearance in your mind as a positive chance to get your message across to the public. By carefully honing how you want to appear to the public, you can control the narrative and present a cohesive front, whether this is humane and compassionate or proactive and professional. Here are our top tips on how to achieve this:


Know what you want to say

Make sure to brush up on exactly what your company’s stance on the topic is. Know the research statistics, and sum up in a few lines exactly what it is you want the public to take away from your interview. 

Doing this will help you to answer questions succinctly, and come across as a professional who knows what they are talking about. Formulate this information into memorable and catchy answers, known as ‘reactive lines’, ready for multiple types of questions.


Research your interviewer

If you know who is interviewing you, watch some of their previous interviews to learn how they like to formulate and structure their show. Some famous interviewers are known for their probing first questions, with the aim being to knock their target off-kilter, and bombard them with the real questions while they are still trying to catch their breath. This is by no means the norm, but if you are prepared for it, the technique will lose most of its effectiveness.


Prepare your answers in advance

Knowing how to answer awkward interview questions will go a long way towards ensuring your media interview is a success. While it may not be possible to know exactly what you will be asked, being able to anticipate and prepare for the most awkward and intrusive of questions will mean that you are ready for the worst, and happy to get the rest.

Start by putting together a list of possible questions, ranging from welcoming ones to off-topic or awkward and tough questions. Try to consider every possibility, even if it is uncomfortable. If possible, do this with multiple people; the variety of things different people think of can be truly staggering. Try to think outside the limits of the topic being discussed too, especially about yourself and the company. 

Remember that the interviewer will have done their research beforehand, and may throw in a curve ball to liven things up. In some situations, there will be the chance for you to have some say over what is discussed, but it is always a good idea to know how to react if it happens. There are countless examples online of interview subjects who were unprepared for tough questions, there for everyone to see for decades to come. 

Next, come up with answers to all of the questions you and others have come up with. When formulating answers, try to keep them low on jargon and as ‘to the point’ as possible, without sounding like a soundbite robot. Depending on the nature of the situation, there may be a call to sound more genuine and empathetic, official and serious, or excited and knowledgeable.

Consider too how you will handle questions where you do not know the answer, or cannot share the answer for whatever reason. Be upfront if it is genuinely something you would not be expected to know in your position, or if it is something that is not shareable at the time.

Finally, be aware of and prepared for leading questions. Most interviewers are looking for easily shareable soundbites, and they particularly love ones which they have written themselves, and simply got you to agree with. Learn to disagree without being rude, and come up with answers for these types of questions with calm but assertive responses, e.g.  ‘I wouldn’t use those words, in fact…’, as this can go a long way to helping you keep your cool when the pressure is on.


Remember visual components:

  • If possible, know the setting beforehand. For example, will you be outside, and if so, will the sun be in your eyes? Will it require a certain type of clothing? 
  • Think carefully about what you will be wearing. If your usual work attire is relatively casual, but you are discussing something serious or sombre, then a suit may be the more appropriate attire. Equally, a guest appearance to discuss a new campaign on a youthful TV show may mean that an overly smart style of dress could alienate you from your audience.
  • Body language can be just as important for communication as the words that you use. Fidgeting hands or roaming eyes can be the undoing of even the most practised speaker , and crossing your arms can make you appear standoffish. The best way to combat any awkward quirks or habits is to practise in front of a mirror, or to film a run-through to watch back.
  • Is it a Zoom interview? Visuals matter. So too does a steady, reliable internet connection. A blank wall can be a little dull, almost infinitely enhanced by a potted plant, a bookshelf, or a panoramic view over your shoulder. While your setup might change for virtual interviews, remember that the audience’s experience doesn’t – visual interest is still important. If you’re at all worried about your network connection, test, test and test again.


Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

The number one thing you can do to prepare for any form of live media interview is to practise beforehand. Knowing your answers off by heart is all well and good if you know the type of back and forth that’s coming, but in situations where elements are unknown, it can really help to role-play different eventualities. 

By doing this repeatedly, you will not only know what you are going to say – and how you will respond physically as well as verbally – but you will also know your information well enough to be able to adapt it to whatever guise a question could come in.


On the day of the interview

Don’t lie! It may seem redundant to mention, but we all act differently under pressure and in the spotlight. If you do not know something for a fact, then do not mention it. Your interviewer may know you are lying and call you out, or the public will, with all the speed it takes to look something up online.

Similarly, you need to be in control over how you react to provocation. Don’t react in a negative manner: remember that you are representing your company, and in today’s world of instantly sharable video and news stories, your wrong step might never disappear. The best course of action is always to be calm but strong-willed. 

Whether you don’t know an answer or are grappling with a pushy interview style, when the pressure builds, take your time answering the questions, as this will allow you to stay in control and give you a moment to consider your answer. It also shows the interviewer (and thus the audience) that you are not going to be moved to emotion by their pressing. 


Consider professional media training

If you are new to live news or media interviews, it can help to hire professionals to train you on what to expect in these volatile situations. Broadcast Revolution can help shape your story for the media, whatever your industry, and in whichever format suits your needs best. Let Broadcast Revolution utilise their decades of experience in video production, media training and PR campaigns, and give yourself the best chance possible of harnessing the power broadcast media can hold in promoting your brand to the world.