Technology and remote working have come to the fore during the COVID-19 crisis. The likes of Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams and even FaceTime have blossomed in importance to help the business world to carry on operations ‘near-normal’ in many industries.

Hugh Fasken, Director in the CDR Corporate team, shares his views on how to navigate media interviews during a pandemic.

Technology and remote working have come to the fore during the COVID-19 crisis. The likes of Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams and even FaceTime have blossomed in importance to help the business world to carry on operations ‘near-normal’ in many industries.

It is alarming to think how the world would have coped 10 or even five years ago when the hardware, software and broadband were less mature.

Video conferencing has played a key role in how firms engage with the media and vice versa over the past four months, with many spokespeople suddenly needing to be Zoom-fluent and Teams-ready. Given the ease at which these platforms allow for document sharing, it is likely they will remain a key media engagement tool once the world moves on from the pandemic.  The ability to discuss live documents face to face is incredibly powerful, though it does also bring new challenges for spokespeople and a potential new avenue for a journalist ‘ambush.’

Citigate Dewe Rogerson has seen a rise in demand for training on how to maximise the value and minimise the risk of ‘virtual’ interviews. There are a multitude of new considerations for a spokesperson – what background to use, the camera angle, should they allow a video chat to be recorded. 

How we use services such as Microsoft Teams in a professional manner should be common sensical, including when talking to the media. But best-practice for spokespeople would include at a minimum the following ten tips:

  1. Plain backgrounds are best – single colour walls, painted in a light tone. Avoid windows, lights, ‘dynamic’ wallpaper
  2. Avoid anything political or sensitive with regards to books, posters in the background – depersonalise the environment
  3. If you opt for a ‘fake’ (virtual) background, make sure it’s appropriate for the particular meeting – it is usually best to avoid being too ‘funny’
  4. Sit down, don’t stand – put a laptop on books etc to raise it up to get a better angle. Face the laptop as much as possible – look engaged
  5. Smart casual dress is fine. Being dressed too formally can now give the wrong look. For men, the tie has largely disappeared from existence…
  6. Close doors to the room you’re in – put a sign on the door, or lock it, if there’s a risk that family members could interrupt.  Be conscious many houses have poor sound proofing, so noise travels between rooms
  7. Sharing docs on screens can be a great way to better engage with journalists. If sharing screens, however, double check that any websites, documents that can be seen by third parties are suitable. Make sure anything shared has been sense-checked and approved by compliance!
  8. Rehearse processes if needs be with a colleague before a meeting – particularly if you’re new to a platform.  Turn off all other screen tabs and programmes or risk ‘pop-ups’ blaring noise in the middle of an interview
  9. If a meeting is being recorded make sure all participants are aware of this
  10. Having notes in front of you is fine – though some people find this a distraction. As with any media interview, whether over the phone or face-to-face, the success of any interview is preparation – find the time to prepare beforehand and you may not need notes.

One consequence of this COVID-19 driven trend is that interviews conducted on such platforms will result in more videos being posted on media sites (particularly C-suite interviews).Why go to all the bother of writing things up if it’s there to digest as a video? In a fast digitising world, this sort of capability is getting easier and easier. If so, this will require spokespeople to be more formally broadcast trained.

For more information on interactive broadcast training please contact the Citigate Dewe Rogerson Corporate team on corporate@citigatedewerogerson.com  

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