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How to be the perfect T.V. guest: you can get your facility's message across as a guest on T.V. talk shows and news programs - but you have to know how.

You can get your facility's message across as a guest on T.V. talk shows and news programs - but you have to know how

A recent national poll shows many Americans get most of their news and information from television. Medical-related news is especially desired by viewers.

A television interview provides an excellent opportunity for an administrator to speak to thousands of viewers about a facility or a new program, and it doesn't cost a penny. Not only is an interview a convenient way to teach large numbers of people, but information seen on T.V. is perceived by most viewers to be true. People trust what they see on television.

Why don't more professional administrators take advantage of television news opportunities? The problem is that many people are uncomfortable appearing on T.V. or even thinking about being on T.V. It is a whole new ball game for which many people are unprepared. And if the guest is not prepared (as many neophytes seem intuitively to recognize), it is possible to ruin a wonderful opportunity to inform and to market.

This is why I would like to share with you information on how to get on T.V. and how to make the most of that opportunity. My information comes from ten years of being on television and from teaching courses to hundreds of medical professionals on surviving (and perhaps even enjoying) a television interview.

Getting on T.V.

Let's say you have an idea which you think would be interesting and informative. The first hurdle you fate is convincing someone at the television station that the idea is worthy of being placed on the air. There are two ways of going about this.

The first is to prepare a "press release" for the T.V. station. The press release is a vehicle used by public relation and advertising agencies to inform the media that something newsworthy has occurred. There is a particular format to be used for the press release (see box). Make sure that the release is double-spaced, is written well and is no longer than two double-spaced typed pages (in fact the shorter the better). Try to find someone on your staff with an interest in writing and a flair for this sort of thing.

Second, write a brief note to the assignments editor stating that you have an idea that you think would make a good story. In as few words as possible explain what your idea is. Remember, the television person is deciding what will be of interest to their viewers - not necessarily how important the information is, but how interesting it will be. In the note you might say "I ran across something that I thought might be interesting for your viewers ... If you need more information please feel free to call me at ..." You might ave to send several of these notes and, who knows, perhaps one day the assignments editor might take an interest and decide to call and give you a try.

How To Make The Most Of An


Making the most of a television interview involves the four P's:


When a television reporter calls you and asks if you would be interested in being on T.V., you should first ask the following questions: What is the topic? What attracted the reporter to that to pic? (Was it a newspaper article, a magazine article, etc.). How did they select you? What point would they like you to address? What is the format of the show? Will the interview be conducted at the station or at your facility? Finally, what are the date and time of the interview.

I place the date and time last to give myself the opportunity to decide with the prior questions whether I really want to do the interview or not. If I want to do the interview and the time is not convenient, I have to decide just how inconvenient: Enough so that I should risk asking the reporter to reschedule? If, on the other hand, I do not desire to do the interview, I can then say I'm sorry I cannot make it on that date, but I would like for you to keep me in mind to do an interview at some time in the future. If you know someone else that might be good for the interview you might ask: Would you like me to recommend the name of somebody who might be willing to do this?" If the answer is yes, give the name, and then call that person yourself so they will not be called unexpectedly by the station. If you want to call that person before providing his or her name, see what kind of deadline the reporter is on and make sure that you call them back in time for the T.V. station to meet its deadline.


First, begin by watching the show so that you know the style of the interviewer, the format of the interview, and the depth that the interviewer usually goes into. Begin your preparation by establishing three main points that you wish to make. Most television interviews are long enough for you to make only three points adequately. Write your three points down and practice delivering your answers in short "sound-bites." (A soundbite is a voice track that lasts fifteen or twenty to thirty seconds, rarely any longer). Practice delivering your answers in that period of time so they won't be edited out or edited down. Practice using a video camera, a tape recorder, and/or with a friend asking the questions. Prepare with the attitude that the interviewer is neither your friend nor your enemy, but rather a professional doing his or her job.


Make sure you understand what time the interviewer wants you there for the interview. If it is done at the station, plan to arrive a few minutes early in an attempt to familiarize yourself with the surroundings. Dress appropriately for the interview. Business attire is usually best. Avoid wearing flashy jewelry since it sometimes detracts from what you are saying. Practice delivering your answers in terms that will be easily understood by the lay public. Remember, you are talking to your potential residents or families, not to your colleagues. Therefore, use language easily understood by the lay public and avoid jargon. During the interview look at the interviewer, not the camera. Interviews are set up so that by looking at the interviewer the camera picks you up. Also, remember that television cameras are recording devices with microphones, so never say anything in the presence of a camera (even if you think it is not on) that you do not want to appear on T.V. "Field cameras" used on location, such as your office, often do not have red lights that indicate when the camera is on. In short, don't go "off the record." If the interviewer says "Is there anything else you would like to say," it is a good idea to simply go over again, briefly, your three main points. Because of their importance, I recommend that you write your three main points down, perhaps with some background information, and that you give that information to the interviewer following the interview so they can use the information while editing your piece. If the station make-up people offer to powder your face, avail yourself of the opportunity, no matter how strange it may seem. The personnel at the station know what you need for you to look your best.


If you enjoyed doing the interview and would like to get asked back, write a thank you letter, not to the reporter but to the news director of the station, complimenting the reporter. In this way the news director receives the compliment and in turn will pass your letter on, usually with a complimentary note, to the reporter. Often, this type of letter goes into the reporter's files. The gratitude you can engender with compliments often goes a long way toward getting you invited back. If you felt the interview was biased or in any way inappropriate, it is a good idea to write a letter to the news director about that, as well. If you do so, however, make sure you present the information in a factual rather than an emotional way. By doing so you are much more likely to be listened to.

As you can see, T.V. interviewing is not as natural as it sometimes appears, and to be a successful guest, there are techniques to know and master. However, the result will probably prove to be well worth the effort involved.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Medquest Communications, LLC
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Croft, Harry A.
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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