Using visuals to make the most of your TV interview

When preparing for upcoming media interviews, developing key messages, thinking through tough questions, and practicing concise phrasing of ideas will set you up for success.

If you have an upcoming TV interview, it’s important to take an extra step and plan your visual opportunities as well.

TV provides a unique window to not only explain your work, but to show the audience what it looks like in an engaging and memorable way. The video component is an extra chance to highlight the impact of your work and to reflect the University’s Research, Education, and Outreach mission.

Specifically, take some time to think about options for interview location, b-roll, and natural sound.

  1. Consider the interview location. You may be inclined to meet a reporter in your office, but white walls with little depth of field do not make a very interesting interview background. The best course of action is to pick an interview location that matches the content of your story. If you are discussing aquatic invasive species, meet at a lake; if you are talking about plant breeding, meet in front of a research field; if you are explaining a new technology, meet in the lab and have relevant equipment or tools in the background. Even adding a fitting poster, object, plant, or piece of equipment to your office background can make the interview space more interesting for the audience.
  2. Think through b-roll opportunities. After your interview, a reporter will likely spend some time getting b-roll — additional footage used to provide context and interest. Reporters prefer b-roll that is action based. This could be shots of you working on research in a lab, collecting samples out in the field or doing other daily tasks. Though preferred, action shots are not always possible. In this situation, a reporter may take footage of relevant objects, interior or exterior buildings or signs, your hands moving, or you typing at your desk or talking on the phone. B-roll shots are necessary so a reporter can put visuals over the sound of their voiceover and your interview. It allows them to cut away any stumbles, repetitive information, or “ums.” Consider what actions, tasks, or images you can show a reporter to help the audience understand and engage with your work.
  3. Consider natural sound. Along with b-roll, a TV reporter will need natural sound or background noises that make the story more engaging for the viewer. Natural sound could be a splash in the water, car honking, school bell ringing, moving test tubes or equipment, or short phrases from the interview subject that are not part of the main interview. What this means for you is that a reporter will keep the mic on you even after your formal interview ends. They want to get the sounds of your work, as well as the quick phrases you might say while working or showing them around your space.

When possible, a little bit of extra planning for the visuals can make a big difference in the final product. Your partners in University Relations (reach out to and in your college/unit communications teams are happy to help you prepare for your interview and think through potential interview backgrounds and b-roll opportunities.