How Not To Do A TV Interview

Last week I appeared on morning television. It could have been a wonderful experience. A chance to sell my book and build my profile. But it wasn’t so wonderful, not really.

Let me backtrack a little. When my novel was released at the beginning of March, I was due to appear on Weekend Sunrise on Channel 7,  – the same network that screens Home and Away – here in Sydney. It’s one of those newsy, chat shows with desks and couches and very happy, smiling presenters. However, a couple of days before I was to make my TV debut, Schapelle Corby (enter young, attractive, Australian drug smuggler who may or not be mentally ill depending which press you read) was released from prison in Bali. So me and my book were ditched for Schapelle. Then the following week, the tragedy of the Malaysian Aircraft disappearance began to unfold and understandably, I was once again bumped.

For five weeks I was put on standby for the weekend only to be replaced by something or someone else.

So, I took my book to another network, Channel 10 – who screens rival soap opera, Neighbours. It was a risky strategy. I was guaranteed a soft, friendly interview on Channel 7, but probably not so soft or friendly on Channel 10. I should also confess that I happen to know a senior someone at Channel 10 who opened the door for me to step through.

If you are reading my blog for the first time, let me explain that my novel is based on the 5 years I spent working on Home and Away, one of Australia’s most popular TV shows. I always knew this would provide ‘the hook’ for any publicity and also for many readers, so I was prepared to be asked lots of questions about the cast of the show. I wasn’t disappointed. Nearly every interview I’ve given has turned on the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspect and most have tried to push me to reveal gossip or scandal, which is fine, as long as they accept the fact that I won’t answer those questions!

Unlike press or radio interviews, you do get some warning about the angle of a TV interview when the producer calls and asks lots of questions. And I was left in no doubt with the Channel 10 producer –  ‘we want you to dish the dirt’. Of course you do, but I won’t talk about gossip, scandal or dish any dirt. I was pretty clear, so I thought.

Given my experience with Channel 7, I fully anticipated being dumped before my appearance, particularly when I was moved form the Thursday to the Wednesday. But Wednesday morning came around and there in my Tweeter feed was one from Studio 10 mentioning my name. WooHoo! It’s going to happen.

I was immediately terrified. In fact, I was so nervous part of me hoped I’d get cancelled at the last minute! Of course that wasn’t going to happen.

The lovely Kirsty Noffke, my PR rep at Random House met me at the studio and we were ushered through to the Green Room and before I even sat down, I was taken straight through to make-up. After fifteen soothing minutes in make-up, I was bustled through sound to get ‘miked up’ and then through the studios doors to the chaotic backstage area. A tangle of cables, bodies and staging equipment. After a quick set change during a commercial break, I was plonked on a couch between Ita Buttrose, a legend of Australian media and publishing, and journalist, Jessica Rowe on one side; on the other side sat, journalists Joe Hildebrande and Sarah Harris.

Yes, my first  TV interview was with four seasoned veterans of the profession. What could possibly go wrong?

Sarah Harris introduced me, The Wardrobe Girl, and the theme of the interview -‘dishing the dirt on Home and Away.’ The next four minutes and forty-two seconds consisted of me not answering questions, whilst smiling, laughing and pretending to enjoy myself with four people who, up until that morning, had never heard of me or my book. Excellent.

My mind had decided that it would stop working during these few minutes. All the anecdotes I could have said vanished when I was put under pressure to reveal secrets, dirt, scandals. I didn’t even think to say, ‘Well, you’ll need to read my book to find that out.’ Or, ‘In my book, there’s a scene where ….’

So rehearse, practise answering questions in a way that isn’t rehearsed and sounds spontaneous. Never expect the interviewer/s to respect that there are questions you won’t want to answer, in fact they’re the very ones they’ll want answered!

They say all publicity is good publicity. I’m not so sure about that, but I did learn a lot from my experience and if I’m ever asked to go on TV again, I hope I won’t be such a startled rabbit in the headlights!

Here for your entertainment and education is the link Studio 10 Interview !

Advertisements