In the first of a two part series, I'll be providing tips about how to get the most out of a PR video interview. My background is teaching video skills to would-be journalists and bloggers in Vietnam. What I learnt there translates beautifully to the UK - after all, the art of communication is not limited by geography or language.
Part One: Interview technique
PR agencies can do more than just write a press release or blog post - video is really coming to the fore, both for B2B and B2C communications.
I'm not talking here about full-blown, high budget video production. Rather, the video work we do for our clients is designed to support their marketing activities - for example, video interviews with executives on topical issues, vox pops to support campaigns, or shots from an event our client is attending.
Even before you start to shoot, it’s important to have a sound knowledge of interview techniques. Here is how we approach video interviews for our clients:
1. Prepare, but don’t be a slave to a script
Draft out a list of questions, but keep it flexible. To get the best out of spokespeople - your 'talent' - they must stay relaxed and be able to express themselves in their own words. Also, depending on the responses, it’s sometimes necessary to deviate from the plan and go down a different line of questioning in order to get the best answers.
Our approach is to start a dialogue with the interviewee before the camera starts rolling so that they relax, whilst ensuring their attention stays on us, not the camera lens! There are times where a piece to camera is appropriate, but it's a harder skill to master and most of the time focusing on the interviewer is easier for the talent.
2. Answer the question with a question
We also encourage the answers to be in full sentences - for example, if we ask “what’s your opinion about PR evaluation?” They say: “My opinion on PR evaluation is that most agencies don't understand it,” not “Most agencies don't understand it.” This means that you can better pull out sound bites in the editing process.
3. Listen carefully
It sounds obvious, but really listening to answers can make or break video interviews. We never want to end up in the editing process realising that the interviewee could have expanded on an important topic or could have explained something complex more thoroughly.
Similarly, we ensure that the interviewee speaks more broadly than what we ask – they may add something we’ve not considered. At its simplest, we end the interview by asking “is there anything else you would like to say?”
As a public relations consultant it's your job to ensure the video stays on message, so if you're interviewing your own client or colleague, you've got a role to play here. Make sure you have your PR messaging sheet on hand and that you're familiar with it.
Listen out for repetition or verbal tics. Often an interviewee will latch on to a phrase or term, that is repeated. It's not noticeable in common communication, but on video it sticks out like a sore thumb.
4. Make sure your talent is passionate
As an interviewer and director, your role is to ensure that your talent looks and sounds as good as possible on screen. Most interviewees are too busy thinking about their answers to consider how it comes across.
Encourage your talent to 'dial up' their energy levels. Show them what you mean - often it's important to make the case that no matter how 'silly' it feels being extra energetic in the moment, it won't look over-the-top on camera.
Get them to talk about people they respect most on TV. Chances are it's because of their passion for the subject. Another technique is to get them to talk about something they have a strong interest in, then dive back into the interview and see the enthusiasm levels maintained.
5. Ensure the answers are clear and 'waffle-free'
We sometimes find ourselves with an interviewee who is already particularly passionate about a topic. This is fantastic for the energy but it can also mean you get a lot of waffling. In these cases we listen to the answer in the first take, suggest the key points and retake until we have something succinct and punchy. Likewise, if the interviewee sniffs, coughs, sneezes, or another loud noise interrupts their answer, we simply redo the question. The result: neat, clear answers that make the editing process much easier.
The most important thing we strive for in the process of video interviews is getting it right first time. Messaging, particularly for client marketing material, needs to be on point and any mistakes in wording can’t be fixed in post-production editing. That said, while good interview technique is essential in producing a client-worthy result, the technical ability to frame a shot and film it properly is just as essential.
Stay tuned for our next blog post in this series - Part Two: Filming.
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