Genealogy How Tos

How to prepare for the trifecta: print, radio & tv interviews

Dear Linda,

Congratulations! I know you never imagined you’d be fielding multiple media requests in one week. Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts to help you.

  1. Be a good researcher and google the interviewer. Check out their social media links – not in a creepy way – to find some connection. The best interviews are ones that feel like a conversation, as opposed to a witness box. It’s OK to ask them a question or two as well.
  2. Lighten up already. You LOVE this stuff. Warmth and enthusiasm wins out over serious and factual every time.
  3. Tell a story. Tell a few stories. Make history come alive for them. Treat them like a 10 year old with a short attention span. Make history relevant. You can do anything with the power of storytelling.
  4. You might want to block out your whole day. It takes a lot of energy to do an interview.
  5. Solicit advice from your friends who’ve done media interviews. Make notes and be sure to thank them later.
  6. Make sure your phone is charged. Print media interviews will be by phone. You might need to follow up with photos and your preferred talking points. Ask for their email address and send a test email while you still have them on the phone. Send them a thank you after the article is published.
  7. Plan for a noise-free space for radio. Radio before covid was a pre-interview and then a visit to the soundproofed studio. Radio post-covid is a pre-interview call followed by a live “you’re on the air” call. Audio quality is everything. Confer with your coworker, aka your husband, about his meeting schedule.
  8. Remember that TV is sound and vision. TV before covid was a call and a visit to the studio. TV post-covid is a recorded video conference meeting. If you’re going to a studio, the next calls after you diarize the interview are to book appointments for hair and makeup, because the last thing you should be worrying about is how you look. TV isn’t quite eternal but it sure is long lasting.
  9. Diarize!! Maybe set a few reminders and double, triple-check the time zones.
  10. Test how you look on the video conference platform. It’s not the same as a TV studio. Zoom in particular is really different: tone down the makeup and colours; wear a solid, not a pattern; and minimal jewellery.
  11. Do the pre-interview setup. If you’re doing a TV-via-Zoom call, start a new meeting with no participants and spend some time adjusting the light and styling the background. Check your makeup intensity. Clip flowers from the garden. Take down the Dogs playing poker poster. A photo or two of your ancestors is a nice touch. It’s OK to have your big Post-Its with ongoing genealogy work on the walls. Just remember this is for broadcast so don’t have anything on the walls you’re not willing to share with the world.
  12. As soon as the interviewer connects with you, test your platforms to be sure you can do what you need to do, such as screen share, and shut off every other application you have running on your computer. You don’t want texts from your husband asking what’s for dinner to be recorded for posterity. (You don’t want to do this beforehand in case there’s a last minute change and they need to get in touch.) It’s a good idea to shut off your iPhone, iPad and iWatch, and if you’ve still got a landline, set it to MUTE.
  13. If you’re going out to meet the journalist – in person interview, radio station, TV station – either get there an hour early or use the job interview trick and visit the location the day before. If you do set aside an hour, you’ll practically guarantee the streets will be empty and the lights all in sync. If you don’t, you will run into road construction, have trouble finding parking, be unable to find a place to pay for parking, need to visit the bathroom, and arrive sweaty and flustered.
  14. Write your talking points. Have between 3-5 things to say and be prepared to expand if prompted. Rehearse. Record a test.
  15. Ask for the questions and the amount of time the finished interview is expected to be. It’s hard to prepare if you don’t know the angle the journalist is seeking, and the amount of time will tell you if they are looking for a sound bite or a longer interview piece.
  16. Write down the list of people and organizations to thank, and be sure to thank the interviewer as well.
  17. Oh, my goodness, Linda. If the media outlet is Chinese, have your name in Chinese ready to go.
  18. Have a social media plan for sharing and amplifying your exposure across your platforms.
  19. Keep a show reel. That’s a list of performances you’ve done. It’s like an online résumé.
  20. RELAX. Breathe. You’re going to be great.

Sincerely, Future Me


This week has been an absolute blur! Here are the articles on Ancestry and Sing Tao Daily. Stay tuned for info on the coming OMNI tv interview, and tune in for the CBC Radio Vancouver for their On the Coast show at 5:35 pm Pacific on Canada Day, July 1st. (Not in BC? See my post on how to tune into CBC Radio wherever you are in Canada.)

Thank yous

29 June – A shout out to Gail Dever of Genealogy à la carte for her thoughts on this post! Merci, Gail.

5 thoughts on “How to prepare for the trifecta: print, radio & tv interviews

  1. Loved the line, “Treat them like a 10 year old with a short attention span.” When I first started doing interviews, a PR friend gave me a prep template that helps you identify three talking points and examples you might bring up.

    1. Hi Laura, It is near-impossible for me to narrow down 3-5 stories I want to tell when we are talking about genealogy! You sound like you’ve done quite a few interviews. Do you still have the template? I’d love some pointers.

  2. I would agree with this, though, depending on the nature of the interview, journalists don’t always share their questions (my husband is a journalist)…though, I would think for family history related interviews, that wouldn’t be an issue.

    You have some great advice here – there were things I didn’t think of 🙂

    1. Great! I’m glad there was something new for you. I’m glad OMNI gave me one of their questions beforehand, because it changed the way I answered. We can show & tell with Zoom – that helps a lot with genealogy! (You can see I was the kid who got super excited about show & tell at school.) Does your husband work in print, radio, or TV?


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