Congratulations! You’ve managed to land a TV interview for your brand.

Oh wait, now you have to go on camera, and you’ve never had a TV interview before, and you are starting to get lightheaded, and you feel a swarm of butterflies in your belly because you’re afraid you’ll say something foolish in front of the world.

Not knowing what questions to expect from a TV reporter while at the same time looking good on camera is a daunting task –even for folks with prior TV experience.

But don’t worry! The simple fact is there are ways you can prepare for TV interviews that will minimize the chance you will say something off-topic that could hurt your reputation or embarrass you in front of your community.

To make sure you come off like a pro in your next TV interview, follow these easy Dos and Don’ts:

Do:

Relax: Take a deep breath. There is no need to feel nervous. The interview is really no different from any other conversation you have about your business (or charity) with people you meet. Think of it as a casual conversation with a new customer.

Dress professionally yet comfortably: Wear nice clean clothing that you feel comfortable in. Your outfit should not be a distraction to you or the audience. You are not trying to make a fashion statement – unless of course you’re a fashion designer! Want a few fashion tips? Check out our post about tips on what to wear for a TV interview.

Speak clearly and simply: Try to speak as clearly as possible. Don’t use complicated vocabulary show the world how smart you are. Keep your sentence length shorter so you don’t leave any unfinished thoughts hanging in the wind.

Be authentic: Say what you mean, and mean what you say. You are good at what you do or you wouldn’t be in front of the camera, so just trust that who you are is what the viewers want to see.

Stay focused: Make sure you are really listening to the questions during TV interviews and answer them directly without rambling. Build a fence in your mind around the question and stay inside to get the most out of the question.

Promote your business: Don’t forget to mention how your business addresses the issue at hand. If you are being interviewed about your business then it’s a no-brainer. But if you are getting interviewed about a breaking news topic like I was one time before Lance Armstrong’s famous doping interview with Oprah, then be sure to mention how you advise “your clients” to handle similar situations.

Smile: One trick for TV interviews is to smile as you talk, unless of course you are talking about something with very serious implications, like a how your company is helping during a natural disaster. Don’t over-expose your pearly whites, but do keep an easy half-smile on your face; you can even nod your head from time to time during a good question from the reporter or as you make a strong point.

Don’t:

Look at the camera: Ignore everything around you and focus solely on the interviewer, unless this is a remote TV interview with Anderson Cooper and you are supposed to talk to him through the camera. Pretend you are having a casual conversation alone with the interviewer. Looking at the camera may actually inhibit your ability to respond properly as it can act as a mind-freak for the untrained.

Fidget: Sit still. If you tend to talk with your hands, imagine they are tied to your side or in your lap. Why? Lots of movement distracts the viewer from what you are saying.

Let a mistake stop the interview: You might stutter, forget certain words, or even spit a little. No worries, just keep the conversation going. No one is expecting you to be a perfect speaker. Most people are willing to cut you slack because they themselves can’t imagine getting interviewed on camera. Plus, many interviews today are not “live” and so the reporter will edit any glaring mistakes out.

Overthink your responses: Say what comes to mind and be sincere as this will ensure viewers get an honest impression of who you are and what you’re about.

Get emotional: Sometimes reporters might ask your opinion about a controversy or hot topic in the news. If you are asked a question that could lead to an emotional response, take a deep breath, smile, and answer candidly but without emotion. Leave the fireworks to CNN and Fox News.

Your first TV interview should be an exciting moment. Although it’s important to be a success, you are allowed to make mistakes. Think about how you would like to see yourself if you were in the viewer’s shoes, what message would you like to get across?

Lastly, take full advantage of the opportunity. Let the reporter or producer know that you are available for other interviews on similar topics. Why? It may open many doors that were previously closed to you. Good PR is all about promoting your various strengths to the public and making yourself available to the media.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

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