How Coronavirus is changing the way we conduct broadcast interviews

By Sam Munton, Account Executive, 4 Media Group

Due to Coronavirus and social distancing measures broadcasters, are increasingly looking to minimise face-to-face interviews.

A major tv news station have said they have banned studio guests and all interviews are now conducted over Skype or Facetime. With many likely to follow this in the coming days, it is important that as PRs we adapt to their needs. This means changing the way we brief our spokespeople and clients has to change.

Good content is still being put out there all across the PR industry, and there is still an appetite from journalists to talk about other things. But more importantly for us as PRs, the way that journalists want to talk to our spokespeople about these stories has changed.

This means more video calls, voice memos and now even remote radio days.

For those who aren’t familiar with radio days; they are a morning of interviews with a range of radio stations, usually conducted from a studio where you connect to stations via ISDN lines (effectively a high-quality telephone line).

But with social distancing measures affecting clients and spokespeople, radio days are now changing to fit with the government’s advice about social distancing.

This change is being led by using a range of techniques to conduct these radio days remotely or with minimum face-to-face interaction.

Remote radio day

A remote radio day is the term given to a radio day conducted from more than one place. This can mean that someone can be in the studio (or at home) and connect to the spokesperson via ISDN remotely. After connecting to them via ISDN in the studio you can then connect to various stations like a normal studio-based radio day.

As always with radio days, clients want to be able to give feedback to the spokesperson during the gaps in-between interviews. This can also be done remotely as to limit face-to-face interactions.

Voice Memo interview (radio)

The microphones on our smartphones are much better than people give them credit for, so much so that journalists are using this method more than ever – especially at the moment with social distancing being so important. A voice memo interview normally involves the journalist calling you on another line to speak to you like normal. The only difference is that whilst on the phone to them, you are using your smartphone to record into just like a portable audio recorder.

The journalist will then interview you whilst recording their audio on their phone and you on your phone. After the interview you send them the audio file and they have high-quality audio files to use for their news clips or radio show.

Down The line (TV)

A Down The Line (DTL) interview is similar to a skype interview but normally involves the spokesperson going into a TV studio somewhere in the UK before connecting to the main TV station. This is often seen on news channels when someone is unable to get to a central studio – most BBC regional hubs have DTL studios set up.

But with Coronavirus we have seen a move away from this, as this still requires the spokesperson to venture away from their home. The more popular method at the moment is Skype.

Skype interviews (TV)

Skype interviews are nothing new, they’ve been around for a good few years now. Although they don’t give as high-quality picture and sound as a DTL interview, they are a quick and easy way to connect to a journalist for an interview. Ideal for the fast-paced news agenda of the day.

Skype interviews are becoming more and more popular at the moment, as they allow for interaction between the journalist and the spokesperson and offer a good level of visual and audio quality.

With Skype there are a few things that as PRs we should be reminding all spokespeople.

1. Look carefully at the background – is there anything on the wall that might be deemed offensive or counter to the point you are trying to make? But also, is it distracting for the viewers?

2. Use wired earphones with a microphone – the microphone built into your phone is great, when speaking directly into it. But for Skype where you will be further away from the phone/laptop wired earphones, a microphone will help the viewers hear you clearly.

3. Go to a quiet room – where possible keep away from large echoey rooms like a kitchen or dining room – a small study or a bedroom offer much better acoustics. Also, if you are near a phone make sure it’s on silent.

4. Bring the camera up to eye level – the journalists don’t need to see up your nose and neither do viewers. Where possible make it eye level so you can look straight into it and stay in the middle of the screen.

5. Use Wifi – where possible keep your device connected to a fast Wifi, as this will deliver clearer pictures and sound to the journalist.

Broadcast campaigns are still going ahead like normal and there is now more appetite than ever for fun, light-hearted content.

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