Sales & Marketing

The Relevant: Lessons from Leonardo DiCaprio on handling broadcast PR interviews

7 min read

05 May 2016

Talk about a captive audience to make any marketer salivate. Beyond the 43.5m viewers who tuned into the 2016 Oscars live, it was the billion plus global audience who, if they didn’t watch the entire ceremony, caught just one clip: Leonardo DiCaprio’s long awaited Academy Award win.

Beyond thanking his The Revenant co-star Tom Hardy and producer Alejandro González Iñárritu, it’s what he went on to say that struck a chord: “Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship with the natural world – a world we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year on record.

“Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow. Climate change is real, it’s happening right now, it’s the most urgent threat facing our entire species…”

Boom! He delivered one of the most crucial social / environmental messages amid his acceptance speech. How? He made it entirely relevant. It didn’t feel forced, out of place, nor did it make anyone behind the scenes cringe with I can’t believe he just said that.

As much as I’d love to do PR for climate change, I work with SMEs which have everyday business issues that qualify for broadcast interviews.

Here’s how to secure accreditation and promotion without it seeming forced.

Overt plugs are for basins, not broadcast publicity

Lucky enough to secure a TV or radio interview? First rule of engagement is that you’re not supposed to blatantly plug your product or service, unless directly asked. Generally, we all know this much – the show’s producer or your PR will normally make this known.

The consequences are clear if you break this rule. Not only will you sound out of place and overly keen to sell, but you’ll never be invited back on air. It will have the reverse PR effect. And no, I don’t believe there’s no such thing as bad PR.

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There are a few safeguards to ensure you are properly accredited. You or your PR must be able to ascertain in the first instance that your opinion will be accredited, otherwise “no deal” with the media outlet. Suggest a caption title text to run alongside you with your name and business details – it’s not always guaranteed this will happen, so be proactive about it. 

Secondly, make sure the producer / presenter can correctly pronounce your name and that of your business. I cannot tell you how often I’ve seen unhappy interviewees with misquoted names and business titles. Do it behind the scenes with email clarification, accentuating any unusual pronunciations (while waiting in the green room) or even on the phone while waiting to be connected to the presenter live. If you’ve covered this base, there’s less chance of it going wrong.

Continue reading on the next page for the three remaining tips that will enable you to deliver Oscar-winning interviews.

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Short and sweet

Most broadcast interviews are short. Often, you may only get to deliver no more than a few sentences. As a rule, treat every sentence as if it were your last. Make them a mix of fact, opinion and round it off so it sounds like the show could end with your quote.

Practice stating your points carefully avoiding ums and ahs. The biggest secret to minimise this is to simply pause and breathe, rather than to um and ah which diminishes credibility. Pausing allows the listener to take in the previous point, it creates space for the next and it’s a style employed by the most seasoned public speakers.

If you’re using a podcast or playback of the interview on your company’s website afterwards you want the finished product to sound polished and authoritative.

Delivery requires certainly

Often, listeners will judge you based on delivery as much as the content. Ensure you’ve researched every detail of the subject and pre-answer that uncomfortable question you know you are most likely to get asked. Leading broadcasters such as Andrew Marr (The Andrew Marr Show) or John Humphrys and his co-presenters (Today, BBC Radio 4) seldom allow interviewees to get off lightly.

Any good interviewer will ask that controversial question. Answer with certainty, clarity and without obfuscation – leave that to the politicians!

Ensure you repeat the theme of the interview or the question within your answer to demonstrate your commitment to providing insight if you’ve strayed off topic. So, back to the UK’s relationship with the EU…

Be extra early, and comfy

Logistics play a key role in successful broadcast interviews. There’s nothing more upsetting for a PR who’s worked tirelessly to secure a key interview to be told their client was caught in central London traffic and missed the slot.

Women (and many men I know) can take up to half an hour in makeup and hair. Arriving early will allow you to calm any nerves, manage the dry mouth and use the loo. Wear clothes you know fit, feel and look good.

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David Stoch is director of Meerkat PR which specialises national press PR campaigns for SMEs and professional services.