Profile: Candace BelAir

by Peter Neurath

Your secretary tells you there’s a reporter on the phone.

You’re wanted for an interview. On TV, no less. You know if offers you the chance to appear before the public as an expert. It’s advertising you couldn’t otherwise buy. And it’ll cost you nothing…except maybe a lot of sweaty anxiety. You’ve never before been interviewed on TV.

A newspaper reporter once asked you for a comment. You blew it, though, because you weren’t prepared.

If only you could get a little coaching – but from whom?

Wait, you remember one of your friends at the club told you about someone. Yes, a Candace BelAir, wasn’t it?

BelAir, BelAir, hmmmmm. Isn’t she the one who was a news producer for KIRO-TV? Yes, that’s it, and she was a reporter for Newsweek and a contributing correspondent for NBC and CNN.

You decide to give her a call.

And once again, Seattle media consultant Candace BelAir lands a client through the best of all possible ways – word of mouth.

She’ll show how to make a TV ‘bite’ work for you.

BelAir, who’s also a marketing consultant, prepares her clients for the fast pace of TV news. “Andy Warhol would have us believe we’ll all someday bask in our ’15 minutes of fame,’” she says. “Well, in the world of tightly packed TV newscasts, 15 minutes is a luxury few of us will ever know.”

Two minutes is more like it. In fact, despite the actual length of the videotaped interview, you own words in the final story may be reduced to a mere 15-second ‘sound bite.’

But thousands of people may see you and hear your message, however abbreviated. And if you had to pay for that kind of broad-based media exposure, it would cost you plenty.

How to make your message most effective?
Tip No. 1, BelAir says, is to keep it simple.

Unlike the experience of reading a newspaper, your audience has only one chance to grasp your point. “If you speak too quickly, slur your words, mumble or use unfamiliar vocabulary, the viewer is lost. No time to go back and decipher your message.

“Result? A frustrated viewer who turns the dial.”

But that doesn’t have to happen, BelAir tells her clients. Not if you’re prepared. “Make sure you understand the topic,” she warns. “It’s OK to ask the reporter the general subject areas you’ll be discussing.”
But don’t ask to see the questions in advance. You’ll be turned down flat. When asked a question, get to the point. “The reporter is listening carefully for that 15-second pithy sound bite in which you state the essence of the story.” Keeping it simple also means avoiding jargon and shop talk. And stay away from acronyms: “IRA could be an individual retirement account – or the Irish Republican Army,” she says.

It’s fine to sound animated and enthused- people tune out a dull monotone – but never fake an answer, she cautions. “If viewers find out later your statements were in error, you’ll look far worse than admitting ignorance in the first place.”

Other don’ts: Don’t badmouth anyone. “If you do, you can be sure that’s what will end up on TV.”

Don’t assume anything is “off the record.” Don’t say anything you don’t want to see reported on the evening news.

Don’t ask to see your story before it airs. “Trust reporters to tell the story. That’s their job and what they’re trained to do.”

Finally, don’t complain: “Maybe you don’t agree with the reporter’s editorial judgment, and maybe the story didn’t turn out the way you would have told it. But complaining will only create bad feelings and close the door on future interviews.”

If there is a serious error in the story, though, bring it to the reporter’s attention.

She also has a long do-and-don’t list for appearing on a TV or radio talk show. And she’ll put you through a simulated guest appearance, with lights, camera and host (which she plays).

Be prepared for a four-minute interview, and no more, because she’ll cut you off.

“But wait,” protests one client, “I didn’t get a chance to make my point.”

Which is just why BelAir put him through such a rehearsal.

Latest Testimonial

“The feedback we received is that your presentation was the best part of our conference. You addressed exactly what we needed. Thank you so much for customizing your content for our audience.”
—Nancy DiFrancia, Director of Human Resources, Comcast

Free Speaking Tips

Sign up for FREE monthly speaking advice from BelAir Training.


You can reach Candace by phone
or email.

T: 425.670.8408

Visit also our social profiles:

Scroll to top