The phone rings and it’s BBC Radio 5 live, inviting you on, to talk about black holes and quantum gravity, or an email pings and It’s CNN asking to come to your lab, to interview about genetically modified mosquitoes. What do you do? Well, assuming that they’ve contacted you because your research links to those topics, there’s a fantastic opportunity to share your science with a really big audience. For you to raise not just your profile but also that of your university or institution. Also, if it’s say of conversation about vaccination rates, this is perhaps a real chance to counter the ‘BS’, to contribute to well informed, balanced information for the public good. Saying that, the prospect of going on live radio or having a TV crew come to your office, might not be your idea of fun and you can of course say no but then they will likely turn to somebody else. If the thing that’s putting you off, is that you’ve not done it before, that you don’t know what on earth It involves, then I hope this video will go some way to help prepare you and ensure you give a stellar interview about your work. It’s part of a whole YouTube course on how to talk about science with the public. It’s got a leaning towards practicing scientists but to also be helpful for anyone interested in doing science communication. There are loads of different types of media interviews, from a live radio phone-in, to an interview on breakfast TV. From a debate on a podcast, to a talking head expert on a Netflix special. As this is an introductory course, this video is going to focus on news interviews for radio and TV. But a lot of the advice will cross over and be helpful if you’re being filmed for a documentary or recorded for a podcast. And there’ll be more videos on all this in the future so subscribe for those. Okay, I’ve narrowed it down to ten top tips for you. The first is on what to do when you’re approached by the media. The second is a hard truth you need to accept before doing any Interview. The next three, are all about how to prepare and then six and seven are tips for during the interview, including how to deal with tough questions. Then it’s on to specific tips for TV, then radio, before wrapping up with a note on how you’ll feel afterwards. *When the call comes in* If a recent press release had your number on it or a journalist has found your direct dial or email, they’ve got in touch because they’d like you to potentially contribute to a story that they’re working on. Their job is to find a brilliant expert. Your job is to scope them out and see if you want to be that expert. Ask them where they’re contacting you from, which station and programme, ask what the story is and why do they want to run it now? It could be off the back of a news story or some newly released statistics and ask what your role will be. Will you be talking about your research or are they after independent comment on somebody else’s? Or perhaps, you’re one of a bunch of experts giving wider context. There are a lot more questions to ask too, including what type of interview is it? Is it live or pre-recorded? Is it in the studio or from a remote location? I’ll explain what they are in a bit. And, I’ll put a full list of questions, that are helpful to ask, in the free course resource for this video. Just head here to grab it, plus the whole pack of free resources that run alongside the course. As they’re scoping you out too, be friendly, be helpful and show your ability to explain your science well, using everything we covered in video 6. After you’ve gathered as much Intel as possible, either say yay, nay or stall. Asking them to call you back in 10 minutes, gives you time to pause, breathe, research the show, the story, maybe even the science and talk with your press officer too. However, journalists are often working on a tight turnaround to confirm a guest for say, that afternoon show. So they could ring someone else, they say yes, and you’ve missed the opportunity. If the topic is potentially controversial or sensitive, say your work is on drought-tolerant rice created through genetic modification. Then you could contact the likes of the science media centre. An independent charity, who among other things, supports scientists to engage with the media. Oh and how to get the call to come in. That’s all about having a great press release and ensuring that journalists can find it. That will be in a future video, so subscribe for that. We’re moving on to how to prepare for the interview next, but first, there’s something you need to accept before you say yes. *It’s not their job to tell your story* It’s not the role of the journalist to do your PR. Don’t expect them to reproduce your press release, to include a certain bit of your interview or even to tell the story that you want them to tell. Their job is to put their audience first, to tell the story that they’re gonna find the most interesting and relevant, to ask the questions they’ll be asking. The journalist is also under huge pressure. They’re often up against short deadlines, they have limited space or time, so can’t use most of what you say. And if you are live, a breaking story could come in and they may cut your interview even shorter. Also, journalists have editorial independence, which means it’s very unlikely you will get to see anything before it goes out and even less likely you’ll be able to suggest any changes. Don’t be put off or offended by this. It’s the nature of journalism, and despite these pressures, many science journalists tell fantastic stories but stick to the facts and can showcase your work to huge audiences. You just need to go into an interview with your eyes open and with realistic expectations. *Furnish your story house* On to how to prepare then and this is something that can really help with nerves, too. Some people are worried about freezing or not having anything to say. I can tell you, adrenaline is a powerful thing. That’s unlikely to happen. Also, remember you’re the expert, you know this better than anyone and you’re with an experienced journalist, who will be asking you questions to draw out your answers. It’s more likely that during the interview you lose focus, you go off on a ramble or a random question takes you on a tangent. But, if your live, you don’t know how long you’ll get and if you’re not live, you don’t know how much they’ll use in the edit. So keep what you say concise and under control. This is a lovely way to do just that, shared with me by a brilliant marine biologist, with lots of interview experience, Dr Jon Copley. It’s called a story house and you’re going to furnish it with what you’re going to say. You want to have one main objective, one main message that everything falls under. That’s your ‘roof’. Something you really want to share, framed in a way your audience will find interesting, with a clear hook to capture their attention. We talk lots about hooks in video four, if you want help finding yours. For one of John’s interviews, his roof was that the deep ocean remains largely unexplored but offers both real economic opportunities and significant environmental challenges. That’s a combination of mystery and adventure, but with benefits to you and a take home warning. You then furnish the three rooms below, with three supporting facts, messages or short stories. They need to be short and stand alone because, and this is the important thing, you’re not expecting to visit all these rooms. You may only get into one or two, during the interview. The course resource contains a printable story house, with some notes on it to help too. It’s worth saying though, if it’s a TV interview, you won’t be able to have it sitting on your lap, so, you’ll need to remember it. *Plan for the curveball* Even if you’ve been given the questions in advance, the interviewer may throw in an extra unexpected or perhaps provocative question. It’s their show, their story, but it’s up to you, how you answer it. An obvious bonus question is, what’s the future for your research? Or it could be more challenging like, why spend so much money on this? John could have been asked that, why spend such funds exploring the depths of the ocean, when we’ve got enough problems up here on land? That’s a predictable question though and something you can plan ahead for. So I suggest, sitting down, coffee in hand and thinking, what could be those more difficult questions an interviewer may ask you? What are the moral or ethical implications of your research? And, how would you comment on those? For example, with the drought tolerant rice research, what would you say if they span off that to ask, how could genetic modification be used to alter hereditary conditions? Later in the delivery top tips, I’ll get into how to deal with questions you haven’t prepared for. *Consider what to wear* The final preparation tip is about your getup. Don’t wear anything that could be considered inappropriate or that could offend or upset the audience. For example, wearing a shirt covered with scantily clad ladies on a day you’re landing a spacecraft on a comet and may have lots of interviews. Dress in a way that makes you comfortable and reflects your personality. How you’d normally dress when meeting people. Look sharp, yes, but don’t feel you have to be properly formal. It’s not a meeting with royalty, it’s an interview. Best stay clear of anything particularly distracting like, brightly patterned shirts or a cartoon tie. And for both TV and radio, don’t wear dangly earrings or a noisy necklace, that will make the sound terrible. Oh and for TV, don’t wear anything with very close lines as it goes all wavy and weird on a camera. *Be interesting, Understandable clear and memorable* when you’re talking with the interviewer, 1. Avoid impenetrable jargon; words your audience won’t know. 2. Pitch your content for your audience, not for the interviewer. If you’re just sat across from Jon Snow, the host of Channel 4 news in the UK, not he of Game of Thrones. Don’t feel you need to impress him with complicated language. Instead, speak in a way the hundreds of thousands of people watching, will understand. 3. Carefully craft your explanation and use visuals to bring it alive. Comparators to give a sense of scale, analogies to help with complex, more abstract ideas. And 4. As well as saying what it means for your audience, also say what it means for you. Now to be honest, this tip has a deliberately long and ridiculously wide reaching title, and that was a deliberate barrage of broad brushstroke advice, because all of this is very much the meat of this course. If you haven’t worked through videos 4, 5 and 6, I strongly suggest it’s worth doing that before you do any interview. In fact, before you talk about your science with non experts at all, video seven on delivering a great talk, will also help with thinking about how you say it, how carefully placed pauses let ideas land, why you should inject emotion. Two extra interview specific things though. The first Is don’t waffle. Focus on giving short succinct answers. That’s what your story house helped prepare. And secondly, repeat your roof message a few times during the interview. That will help it land. Plus, in case the interview gets edited down, I suggest that rather than saying it or they, you use the subject instead, e.g. drought-tolerant rice or deep-sea exploration. Otherwise, they can’t use the line when you say, it’s a promising way to cope with the continued warming, as they don’t know what it is. *Take the bridge back home* No matter how much you prepared for the questions you think might come up, It’s likely you’re gonna get one that you haven’t predicted. What do you do when a curve ball does come in, do you swing? Yes, you need to answer their question, but you don’t need to answer with much information, if any. If answering it could get you into hot water, just reply with that’s outside my area of expertise, I wouldn’t want to speculate. Or, I can’t answer that because I haven’t seen the research paper that this is referring too. Don’t say ‘no comment’, as that just casts doubt or scrutiny and don’t feel you need to fill silence. Don’t just keep talking until you’re interrupted by the interviewer. once you’ve replied, stop. Leave it to the interviewer to come up with the next question. If it’s not a sticky question and you’d like to have a go at it, do so, but make it clear what is fact and what is opinion. It’s okay to say, I’m not sure but I guess it could be. Whether it’s an awkward curveball or not, don’t get side-tracked and waste precious time. Bridge back to your story house. Get back to solidifying that roof message and trying to visit a couple of rooms. Useful phrases for this are, ‘I don’t know about that’, ‘What I do know is’ or ‘I’d also like to mention’, or ‘What’s really exciting is’ *If you’re remote stay present* TV news interviews can be done in a few different ways. You may be invited into the studio to sit alongside the anchor or the journalist, or you may do the interview remotely from a different studio to the one the presenter is in, or from your office or your lab or home. When you’re in a studio with the host, say you’re on the BBC breakfast sofa, You’ll be sat across from a real person. Then everything we talked about in video seven comes into play. Eye contact, body language, and this is great because you can play off their reaction, build a rapport. It’s harder when you’re doing a remote interview from another studio. You’ll likely be in what feels like a big cupboard, just you, a camera, maybe a producer. But this camera is going to be what’s putting you up on the screen behind the news anchor, bigger than them probably. The trick with these is to treat the camera lens like a person, to look into the dark bit in the middle, but not to stare it out. You don’t need to focus on it the whole time but if you’re not being spoken to, don’t go drifting off or doing something that you wouldn’t want to be seen up on the big screen. Likewise, if you’re doing a remote interview from out in the field or a room in your house, then you’ll be using your laptop or phone camera. Make sure you put the lens at eye level and it’s nicely lit. Don’t have a bright window right behind you. It’s worth watching video ten, which is all about how to make a youtube video about your science, that will help with this setup. One thing though, do make sure you close the door so that, if you have a kid, they don’t come running in, in the middle of the interview. Yeah, we’ve all seen that video. *Radio and pods still need a smile* An audio interview will often be done face-to-face, either in a studio to ensure there’s no background noise, or on location, like in a café, to deliberately give atmosphere and set the scene. Or it might just be done over the phone. They call you and you chat like normal. Sometimes, you may use a remote audio studio like this one here at the Welcome Trust. This allows you to call ‘down the line’, as it’s known, using a high-quality phone line called an ISDN. Your press office may have access to one or you could go to a nearby studio. Again, it will feel a bit like you’re phoning the hosts from a padded cupboard. If you’re face to face, then make eye contact like you would in normal conversation. And although with all sci comm you need to be descriptive, the lack of visuals with radio and podcast, means you need to think even more about your voice. Be careful to speak clearly. Dial up the emotions and smile. Words coming out of a smiling mouth, sound different than those from someone furrowing their brow. Saying that though, don’t over-egg It. Don’t be too flowery and poetic with your language, don’t be too melodic and expressive with your voice. Don’t push the emotions to eleven and don’t force everything through a fake grin. Any of that will just sound unnatural. I feel a radio or podcast audience, can often be even more distracted than a TV or YouTube one. So you need to ensure you repeat your roof and room a few times. And finally with radio, don’t get too close to the mic or be scared of it. You’ll likely have a level check and be told roughly where to be. Don’t suddenly creep and disappear and if you want to turn to speak to someone, ensure your sound is still going clearly into the mic Stay close, don’t lean into it and don’t get so close that it’s like you’re swallowing it. That, that doesn’t sound good. *Staircase wit* That’s the translation of a great french phrase, ‘les breed de les gallier’. It’s used when you think of a perfect reply to something, only after the opportunity has gone. After you’ve passed them on the stairs and are now a couple of floors apart. When you come out of the interview, you’re bound to think, ugh I should have said such and such or I should have pushed back on that. It happens to everyone, don’t beat yourself up about it. Likewise, if you didn’t get to all your story house rooms or if you stumbled a bit. If you couldn’t find the words to say at one point or if five minutes went by in a flash. That’s normal. It’s all part of the beauty of live interviews. If it genuinely didn’t go great then no problem. It’s done now, learn from it and move on. Chat with your press officer or media department if you’ve got real concerns. The big thing is, you just did an interview, where you shared your science with a lot of people. It may have simply Interested and entertained someone for a few minutes or it could have explained something that someone’s been worrying about. It could have given them the confidence to take part in a conversation they wouldn’t have done before, contributed to the fight against misinformation. Celebrate that.