Fox 5 DC Interviews Marc Silverstein for Insight into R. Kelly’s On-Air Explosion

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“Wow. What just happened?” That’s what just about anybody who watched Gayle King’s CBS This Morning interview with R. Kelly would have asked as the piece ended in chaos. Fox 5 DC anchor Shawn Yancy called in On The Marc Media’s own Marc Silverstein to break down the blow-up for Fox 5’s viewers — live during the 6:30 news, just hours after Kelly’s interview went viral.

Kelly started out calm, cool and collected — always a good approach for someone sitting in the on-camera hot seat in front of a reporter. Suddenly, kaboom! He’s out of his seat, tearfully ranting and raving, spewing denials and claiming he’s the victim of persecution and false accusations.

Whether R. Kelly’s on-air meltdown was a spontaneous loss of composure or a staged eruption, will long be a topic of debate. Either way, the guy blew it with his interviewer — and in the process provided a painful-to-watch but valuable case study both for public relations pros and those seeking to be in the news.

If you want to reap the value of headlines, without flaming into an R. Kelly-style burnout, here are some prudent and proven steps to keep you on the sunny side of the news.

First, you need to decide if doing an interview would even be smart. Ask yourself these four questions to help decide if you should proceed.

  1. GOALS: What do you want to get out of the interview?
  2. COSTS/BENEFITS: What are the pros/cons of doing an interview?
  3. TIMING: What’s the best time to do the interview?
  4. TARGET AUDIENCE: Who are you trying to reach, and what outlet gets you in front of that audience?

Now it’s time to prepare. Follow these five steps to give the interview of your life.

  1. Do your research.
    1. What kind of program is it? Who is its audience? Is it live or taped, on location or in the studio?
  2. Define your message.
    1. What message do you want to convey? What overall tone do you want?
    2. Prepare your talking points and make sure you stay on message.
    3. Be authentic and truthful. If you can’t be both of those, DON’T do the interview.
  1. Define your image.
    1. Your physical appearance will make an impact — positively or negatively. Make sure your clothes, hair and accessories portray the image you want.
    2. Practice your facial expressions and your “listening face.” The camera will likely be on you while the reporter is asking questions, so make sure you maintain a pleasant expression.
  1. Anticipate questions.
    1. It’s the reporter’s job to get the details, so be honest with yourself on any touchy subjects they could try to leverage, and plan out your responses in advance.
    2. Identify potential “gotcha questions” the reporter might ask, and write out your talking points so they’re clear in your memory.
    3. Understand there will be some questions you could not have anticipated. Prepare some ways to transition to another topic, or give an answer that aligns with your key message without appearing to dodge the reporter’s question.
  1. Practice, practice, practice.
    1. Practice makes perfect — or at least better. You should sit down with a former journalist or a PR crisis expert and have them pepper you with questions, the layups and the really tough questions that’ll make you feel uneasy. Train for the worst-case scenario so you’ll be poised and prepared during the actual interview.
    2. Tape your practice sessions so you can identify body language, facial expressions or any tics in your speaking style that might not reflect the image you seek to portray.
    3. Have an emergency backup plan. How will you turn the interview around if you realize it’s going in the wrong direction? Again, this is where a PR counselor can help you plan for different scenarios.
    4. Don’t overpractice. You don’t want to seem robotic
    5. Practice your ad libs. Yes, it may sound counterintuitive. But have some one liners ready to go, just in case. But be cautious. They need to fit the situation. You don’t want to seem too glib, if the topic is serious.

Going on TV, whether live or taped, only makes sense if doing so furthers your goals. Following the tips above will help you make the experience as positive and useful as possible. But reading about it only gets you so far. If you’re about to make a TV appearance — whether it’s your first or your fifteenth — On The Marc Media can provide media coaching and on-camera practice before you take your turn in the spotlight. Contact us here to learn more, or call us at 301-545-0108.



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