How to Make the Most of Your On-Air Time

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Ever since the days when every TV set was a massive 12 inches, and millions of Americans tuned in to watch I Love Lucy in glorious black and white, television has been in the center of our living rooms.

Today, the screens are larger, the picture is in high-definition color and the programming choices are near infinite. Also, in addition to shows of general interest, there are now literally hundreds of cable network shows that cater to specialized niche markets. Plus, millions are now watching TV shows on their cell phones and computers. All in all, TV viewership continues to soar.

So, whether you are promoting a book, your business, product, or service, if you want to reach the greatest number of potential customers in your target markets, your aim should be to get on the air.

I’ve written dozens of articles with tips on how to get on the air, but what happens once you get the nod? It’s not enough to just get on the air – you have to make the most of the time you have. In most guest-driven news and talk shows, the average segment length is in the 3½ to 5 minute range, so it’s important to make every minute count.

Here are some tips that will help you make the most of that interview:

  • Prepare, but not too much. Of course you don’t want to go on the air blind, but you don’t want to over-prepare either. If you’re any kind of businessperson, you know your stuff inside and out, and can speak convincingly on just about any topic related to your industry. However, 3½ minutes is not enough time to get everything in, so you need to organize your messages and stay focused on them. Don’t try to come up with sound bites or cute slogans. Just be yourself and make your points. If it sounds too rehearsed, you’ll come off as a fake, and if it sounds like you are fumbling for what to say, you’ll come off as inarticulate. You want to walk that tightrope somewhere in-between.
  • Don’t be too commercial. Television is the medium, but there is a difference between advertising time and show time. Consumers are used to commercials being, well, commercial. They know that in those 3 minutes of ad time, in-between show segments, companies are going to try to sell them stuff. Consumers generally dislike commercials, and when they sit down to play their favorite shows that they previously recorded on their DVRs, they usually fast-forward past the commercials. So, when you’re on the air in-between the commercials, don’t try to sell. If you do, consumers will either fast forward through your segment, or simply switch to a different show. Most likely, the producer of the show has booked you as an expert commentator on a specific topic. Stick to the topic, answer direct questions with direct answers, and give an informative and entertaining interview. If you do that, the hosts will generally make sure to mention the name of your company, your book or your product, because those are the elements that helped establish your credibility to be on the air in the first place! Just don’t be a carnival barker or an infomercial host. It will backfire, and very likely limit your chances of being booked on that or any other show ever again.
  • Be yourself. When you’re watching TV, a lot of the on-air personalities make it look easy to be on TV. That’s their job – they go to school and are trained to make it look easy. When you arrive at the studio, it’s easy to be intimidated by the cameras, the set and the general sensibility of knowing you are going to be in front of thousands and thousands of people. Try not to let that get in your head. Don’t think of it as being on TV. Think of it as being invited into someone’s home to chat with them, because, in essence, that’s exactly what’s happening. You’re appearing in someone’s living room, so treat your interview as if you were out having coffee with a friend. You should still be passionate about your message and articulate about your ideas, but treat it like a one-on-one conversation. Engage the host, look at them when you talk to them, and just have an intelligent conversation.
  • Post it online. In many cases, you can get a digital copy of your interview to post on your Web site, giving your interview a life of its own long after it has aired. After you post it on your Web site, make sure you email all your contacts and let them know about your interview and where they can see the clip. If you are involved on social networking sites, like LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter, use those forums to spread the news even further. Maybe even post it on YouTube and other video sharing sites. It’s not enough to just get in the media – you have to promote the fact you were there, and let the good job you did on the air speak for you and your company.

If you can stick to your message, be yourself and let your intelligence and wisdom do the selling for you, your TV interview will do wonders for your image and your business.

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