For media relations experts, nothing produces more anxiety than an interview on live TV. An anchor can pivot from a previously discussed line of questioning, leaving your executive hung out to dry in front of thousands or even millions of viewers.
I admit I’ve watched this interview at least 15 times. The now famous BBC broadcast where Professor Robert Kelly, a father of two, is humorously interrupted by his kids on live TV is equal parts humorous and cringe-worthy. If you’re a veteran of the PR industry, chances are you had a similar reaction. At first, uncontrollable laughter as the mother dives for the door handle, followed by the fear that this could happen to anyone—even executives at your own organization.
Sometimes real life is unavoidable. Here are a few tips to prepare your executives for anything—even kids:
1. Preparation, preparation, preparation. Live TV can go several different ways and you cannot anticipate everything. However, presenting possible scenarios to your executives can mean the difference between failure and success. Professor Kelly probably prepared extensively for this interview, including childcare arrangements—but things still went awry.
Tip : Dry runs are critically important. Practice alternative scenarios so your executive is not caught off guard. Talk through, or act out, possible situations and see how they might react. It’s a great way to evaluate how well your executives keep their focus and makes them more nimble should something unexpected happen on live TV.
2. Control what you can control. You can participate in a media event in many ways, from broadcast interviews to video conferencing to Facebook Live and Periscope. No matter which environment your executive is connecting from, you can control certain things like the lighting, background and camera angle. These are all critical to establishing credibility.
Tip: Review the location your executive will be joining the interview from, remove possible distractions like knick-knacks and pictures, and check the room for both lighting and sound quality. If joining remotely, Polly Calm has several more helpful “vidiquette” tips.
3. Body language is important. Watching the video, you can feel the angst. With any broadcast interview it’s important that your executives smile and maintain good eye contact and strong posture. Despite outside variables, maintaining these things will ensure that the interview stays focused on the message.
Tip: Record a video of your executives presenting during a dry run and share it with them. Watch for things like eye contact, posture and body language. Identify facial reactions and idiosyncrasies that may deter them from delivering the message.
4. Just roll with it. This interview did teach us a valuable lesson: Sometimes you must play off an awkward scenario and move on. In Professor Kelly’s case, a slight laugh followed by two apologies was all it took. And in turn, the anchor maintained decorum and seemed empathetic.
Tip : This goes back to preparation. Before the interview, provide detailed descriptions of the anchors your executive will be meeting with, including interview style, common lines of questioning and their personality, so they’ll be ready to roll with anything that comes up.
5. It’s not as bad as you think. Chances are Professor Kelly came away from that interview feeling it could not have gone worse. Several days later, he has become an internet sensation, receiving both praise and empathy. As a father of two myself, the same thing has happened to me during video meetings. Sometimes it’s embarrassing, but there are no lasting consequences.
Tip: These interviews aren’t easy. If something goes awry, it can feel 10 times worse than it is. Focus on the positives from the interview while acknowledging what may have gone wrong. Who knows? You could be the next internet sensation!
Professor Kelly’s interview is viral and likely will be for a while. Compared to some catastrophes that have occurred on live TV, this one is mild. It presents an opportunity for us to learn and be better PR professionals. What lessons have you learned from this?
Cameron Craig is a communications professional with 20-plus years of experience working with Apple, Visa, PayPal, Polycom and Yahoo! Formerly, he was a tour publicist for Johnny Cash. Follow him on Twitter @Cam_CommsGuy LinkedIn and http://www.asignaturestory.com.