If you are approached by the media approach you, take their details, including a deadline of when they need to speak to you and say you'll call them back. Then call our press office on 01455 206393 or email media@bacp.co.uk

General guidelines

Types of media and interviews

There are many types of media who may approach you for your expertise. They may call you from a local paper for example, or small radio station. The journalist may be writing for a glossy magazine, a BBC radio programme or regional news. Some researchers or producers like to have experts helping them put together a programme, often months in advance of them being broadcast.

If you are not used to working with the media, it's probably best to try working with the printed media first - newspapers or magazines - rather than a live broadcast.

Press interviews

Newspaper journalists may not know anything about counselling, but they are very skilled at asking pertinent questions and extracting information. They sometimes have ‘an angle' - or a particular point they want to make. So, ask what their angle is, and if you don't like it either try to negotiate or simply decline the interview. Print journalists tend to collect their stories by telephone, and it is very easy to say more than you intend over the phone.

If you prefer, ask for their questions to be emailed to you. Most journalists are happy to send you questions in that way.

Press interview tips

  • Don't answer questions on the spot. Ask for all the questions, then say you will call back in a short while - ask if 30 minutes or an hour is okay. You must call back, but this gives you chance to work out the most important points
  • Pretend that your supervisor is in the room with you
  • Don't say anything to a journalist you would not be happy to see in print or hear broadcast

Before the interview

  1. Know the purpose of the interview
    Find out is who is doing the interview and what angle or aspect of the subject they are interested in. How does your subject area link to other topical issues?
  2. Anticipate the questions
    Think through the areas you might be asked about. Unless you are being interviewed for the specialist media, go right back to basics. Why is the subject important? What are the implications? Work out the three or four most important points you want to get across.
  3. Know your subject
    The media have chosen to interview you because you know the subject. Draw on this for your confidence and share your knowledge.
  4. Stay within your area of expertise
    Your interviewer is unlikely to have as much knowledge about your subject as you do. Sometimes this means they make assumptions or think you have more information than you do. Don't be afraid to say you don't know. You will be seen as a representative of BACP, so you may have to temper your personal views or qualify what you say to ensure your audience know whether you are giving facts or personal opinion.
  5. Relax
    Take a little time to gather your thoughts and get yourself organised. Take a few deep breaths, make a conscious effort to relax your body and speak clearly and slowly.

During the interview

  • Don't pack your answers with too much information. It really doesn't matter whether you directly answer the questions - just get your key points across in the simplest way possible.
  • Your language is vital. Your audience may not understand technical speak, so find simple alternatives.
  • The best interviews are conversations between the interviewer and interviewee. Be confident about your subject - you are the expert, but try not to come across as patronising.
  • Breathe before speaking and don't rush your words.

Television interviews

There are three types of TV interviews - live studio interviews, recorded studio interviews and location interviews (usually at your place of work).

Before the interview: 

  • On TV your message is about how you look as well as what you say. Avoid bright patterns and tinted spectacles, as these are accentuated by TV.
  • Get to the studio at least an hour in advance. This gives you chance to calm down, have a glass of water, check the questions and become familiar with the environment.
  • Don't take notes into the studio - you'll keep looking to check if you've made all your points. If you've only got have three points to make you should be able to remember them.

Try to find out:

  • What's the purpose of the interview - why you are there?
  • What's the first question you will be asked - and more if possible? If you can, chat to the person who will be interviewing you. This will help you build up a rapport and you may even be able to steer their questions in the right direction. Don't be afraid to tell them what you feel is the most important aspect of the issue and the implications this may have for their viewers.
  • Will the interview be live or recorded? If it's recorded, will the tape be edited? If so, you know you can apologise and ask to do your answer again if you get something wrong.
  • How long will the interview last and, if recorded, how long will the finished piece be? This will help guide you as to whether you must be succinct or if you can be more leisurely. It's always worth having a punchy sound bite ready, as this might be all they can use.
  • What's their source of information? If it's a press article make sure you read it fully beforehand.
  • How much does the interviewer already know, and what do they want to learn?
  • Will you be interviewed alone or is there another guest? If there's someone else, find out about their views so you know if the interview will be mutually supportive or confrontational.
  • How will you be introduced? Make sure they get your name, title and place of work correct.

During the interview:

  • Don't move around or wave your arms - or you could disappear out of shot.
  • Don't look straight at the camera unless the situation demands - your eye contact should be with the interviewer.
  • Keep it relevant. It may be really important to you, but what about the viewer? If it isn't relevant or interesting to them don't say it.
  • Repeat your key point - it's better to say the same thing several times in different ways than to say several things once.

Radio interviews

Radio interviews can be live or recorded. They can take place in a radio studio, on location or over the telephone.

Radio interviews are similar to TV but have a few distinct differences:

  • Radio can respond more quickly to events and possible stories and, as it does not have the costs of TV, covers more individual stories overall.
  • Because it is not a visual medium you can use simple notes, but make sure you don't just end up reading them.
  • For a phone-in, a pad and pen are essential to write down the callers' names and the pertinent points of their questions (but try not to rustle!).

Contact us

If you would like individual advice on a specific opportunity, please call us on 01455 206393, or email media@bacp.co.uk