how to tell stories for print and broadcast media

[tweetmeme source=”storylinePR” only_single=false]Once you have told your story in a release and you have been successful in securing an interview, telling the story to a journalist all of a sudden becomes intimidating for most.  It’s natural… it’s the fear of the unknown – so I have created some quick tips on interviews by media type.  These tips have been published in earlier posts separately, but thought I would string them all together into one post for ease of reference and to help readers understand how to tell their story for print and broadcast media.  Let’s start with…   


Getting it in print: newspapers

  • Deadlines are usually same day, with reporters writing their stories by mid-afternoon and filing by 5 – 6 p.m.
  • Most of the stories we tell will wind up in print – newspapers have the biggest “news hole” to fill.
  • Talking with newspaper reporters is a good place to start if you want to build up your confidence – there are no microphones or cameras.
  • Interviews will be done in person or by phone if the reporter is too busy to leave the newsroom.
  • Always agree to have your picture taken – everyone looks at photos. Not everyone reads stories.
  • Your interview may only be used to provide background – don’t be disappointed.
  • Stories are generally written at a Grade 6-8 reading level so talk at that level too.
  • Editors – not reporters – write headlines.
  • Reporters may call back with more questions or to follow-up on a point you made in your earlier conversation. Please call them back!

On the air – radio interviews

  • Deadlines are usually hourly.
  • News stories and newscasts are very brief – 30-second stories with a 10-second soundbite.
  • Most interviews will be done by phone, taped and edited for broadcast.
  • Reporters may show up for events and announcements.
  • Radio listeners only hear you once. They can’t reread what you’ve just said so speak clearly, simply and slowly.
  • Use short and complete sentences.
  • Energize your voice to give it character and colour and grab listeners’ attention.
  • Smile (radio pros call this “putting teeth in it”). Listeners won’t see your ear-to-ear grin but they’ll hear it in your voice.

Say it with pictures – television interviews

  • Deadlines are usually morning, noon and afternoon.
  • Brief stories – 60 or 90 seconds, with 20-second soundbites.
  • Strong visuals are key to TV news. Show people doing things and have interesting things going on in the background.
  • Interviews are usually taped on location and then edited (rarely live).
  • Talk with the reporter and ignore the camera.
  • Viewers are both watching and listening to your interview so pay attention to your body language.

Can we talk? TV and radio talk shows

A great opportunity to raise your profile, talk shows are always looking for dynamic guests who are informative and entertaining and can keep audiences tuned in.  3 talk show formats (you’ll know ahead of time which one you’re doing):

  1. You’re it. You’re the only guest talking with the show’s host. If it’s a good news story, you’ll be on the same page. If you’re talking about an issue, you may be taking opposite sides and debating.
  2. You’re part of a panel with other guests who will likely have different points of view. The host will play moderator and provoke debate if there’s a lull.
  3. You’re taking calls from listeners and viewers.

Talk shows are usually broadcast live to air.  Think of a talk show appearance as a conversation rather than a sermon. Everyone likes to eavesdrop on a conversation. No one likes to be lectured to. If you get into a debate… always take the moral high ground and stay on the right side of an issue. Calmly state your key points and back them up with facts. Don’t respond to hostility, don’t get flustered and don’t take any of it personally.

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1 thought on “how to tell stories for print and broadcast media

  1. Wow, great tips Deanna! I am going to share this page with my Centennial college profs! Great, real, Canadian summary! Couldn’t have said it better myself! =D

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