Based on a talk to the #NHS Clinical Entrepreneurs by Vivienne Parry – Science writer and broadcaster.
1. People like:
- Royals, celebs, cute dogs, drama.
- Something new, surprising, quirky, counter intuitive.
- Human stories – personal journey’s.
Make of this what you will – but these are the things media-land tend’s to look for.
2. Have things to hand:
Great pictures, top factoids – a nugget that is unforgettable – quote on, quote off.
3. Don’t ramble:
Have a beginning, middle and an end to the story.
Typically people start in the middle – without a context (and therefore the story doesn’t work).
4. There needs to be a clear need:
Otherwise people won’t get it. Show me patient’s who have benefited. It needs to be clear and easily understood!
5. Know the difference between good morning and newsnight
One of them is very relaxed and the other is very formal. If you’re sitting on the couch with Piers Morgan you don’t need any training. Newsnight you do! Always watch the show before you go on it.
6. News and features are really different animals.
On the news they will not tell you to comb your hair. If you look like a mess they won’t tell you. Features you’ll have makeup etc – apparently this is essential.
Know the style of the programme, magazine or paper. Know what makes a good piece for each.
7. Rate journalists
Pitch to the ones you like and are in sympathy with. The ones you resonate with are the kinds of ones you should approach yourself as the interview is likely to work much better
8. Horizon scan – what’s coming next?
Understand what events make news. – If you’re the top ligament guy you may need to wait until Wayne Rooney busts his ligament. Then is you’re chance to pounce.
If you don’t get anything – don’t be disappointed. Everything has a time to shine and it may not be dictated by the factors you consider most important.
9. Media people live in a totally different time-zone and world!
They will have to meet their deadlines. It needs to be now (tomorrow is not ok). The average online journalist has to get a story out in 24 minutes! Return those calls fast. Now or never – return and leave a message if you can – at least they will remember you.
It is not an oral examination. Don’t use acronyms or jargon. Use and practice analogy in your area. Simple analogies that people can get win the day.
Establish what the journalist knows. If you don’t ask them to repeat it back they will fill in the dots otherwise and get it wrong. If you think they didn’t get it ask them to repeat what you said and explain it back. If they can’t do that then you need to go over it again. Same with quotes, ask them to quote them back to you.
Re-frame the questions: ie. Is this available in the NHS? If not then say that’s a very good point, we need to raise awareness of this and try to get it into the NHS nationally!
Check: Is it live or recorded? Studio or OB (outside broadcast)?
10. Lights, Camera, Action…
News? Feature or documentary? Documentary you’ll get lots of time setup etc, feature in the middle, news they really don’t care – if you look a wreck they won’t tell you. Who am I on with? What to wear – don’t wear black or white? No small checks, patterns, strong colours, not fussy, no dangly earrings and brush your hair!
You need makeup – DO NOT refuse it! You will regret it.
Never look at the camera – look at the interviewer. When you look away from the camera you lose trust! Also, don’t flap around.
People often look at the monitor – this is because they suddenly get distracted by being on television. Say what you want to say. Write down 3 things that you absolutely have to say in that interview. Note: (The interviewer might distract you with some other irrelevant questions – just say what you need to say!)
Understand that the interviewer won’t have read your departmental briefing or any of your papers. The researcher may not have told the presenter much. If you have something to hand and can, do your innovation in a speedy way or use 5 quick and easy phrases. Help people out if you need to, and don’t ever get angry.
Be relaxed. Breathe out, smile.
Be authorative: stillness, clarity of message, sincerity. Breathe out – then you have a very lovely sexy voice to the voiceovers with.
To be authoratative – STOP! Be still and then speak – you will come across as a very serious person to be taken seriously. Make your message crystal clear.
Be interesting – record yourself and then mark out every word you think should be significant in bold. Vary speed and tone of what you say, use limited hand gestures, smile. Make it sound like a ham Spakespearean actor – on screen this comes across well apparently… Vary the tone and the speed!
If you have a tic – train it out!! They can be very off-putting.
11. Bonus – When dealing with print and radio:
Understand deadlines, ask journalists to read back quotes, offer to look at the science copy but don’t alter grammar or style.
Always say yes to radio – has enormous reach and is a great way to practice.
Ask ‘is it live or is it recorded?’ Who are the other guests?
You don’t need notes – you’re the expert – (if you need to, write it on the palm of your hand, don’t wear bracelets, don’t bang the table [apparently people do].)
Practice with your auntie and try it with kids – but don’t start with 14 year olds.
Start with local radio and TV (great practice).
Pour yourself a large drink and watch yourself back! Note things down in a notebook. Change the things you can. In a mirror remember you are looking at a mirror image of yourself. On TV you see the reverse! Unless you watch it you will never improve.
Ask your mum to keep cuttings and records of phone numbers and who you have spoken to. Use a contact management system to keep records of your contacts.
Further hints… Be committed
Passion, Enthusiasm and Knowledge are key!
There is always that moment when the mouth is moving and the brain has stopped. Just stop talking: I’m really sorry that was rubbish can I start again. Short soundbites are all they want – they will cut out any ramble.
That concludes her whistlestop tour of media training for the NHS clinical entrepreneurs.