Many agents already take part in local phone-ins or TV interviews and, with travel constantly in the headlines at the moment, more broadcasters are on the lookout for fresh faces to share their expertise and insight.

Macclesfield-based Henbury Travel Owner Richard Slater is a regular broadcast guest. He reckons he’s done about 35 hours of TV and radio since the pandemic started, including phone-ins on local radio and interviews on Radio 5 Live and BBC Breakfast.

“I’ve almost developed a new career,” he says. “I enjoy it. I’ve been in travel for 35 years, so I can come up with an answer quickly. Broadcasters like people who have an opinion and are willing to stick their neck out.”

There’s a difference between radio and TV, says Haslemere Travel Owner Gemma Antrobus. As AITO Specialist Travel Agents chairwoman, she’s trained many AITO agents, and has appeared on countless programmes herself, including BBC News, Sky News and BBC Surrey.

“On radio, it’s more about the rapport,” she says. “Often on TV you’re looking at a blank screen – or you can see the interviewer but you’re not looking at him or her.”

Graeme Brett, Director of Westoe Travel, South Shields, says appearing on TV or radio can provide reassurance to clients. “Customers see and hear you and know you’re still there working for them during the pandemic,” he says.

Whether it’s a phone-in on local radio or an appearance on national TV to talk about 2021 travel, our expert tips will ensure a smooth broadcast interview that’s guaranteed to get the audience turning the sound up, not reaching for the off button.

#1 You need a thick skin

“It doesn’t matter if you’re on TV for 20 seconds or talking on the radio for 30 minutes, there will always be someone who will find you on social media and pick a hole in what you are saying,” says Gemma Antrobus. “If you don’t have a thick skin, then don’t do it.”

#2 Be prepared for an early start

You may have to get up early for a 5.30am Radio 5 Live slot, or to do an interview at short notice. Also, understand that the interview may be pulled if something more newsworthy happens.

#3 Know the subject

Establish the topic and what questions you’ll be asked. “The presenter might say: ‘What’s your key question?’ or ‘What do you want me to ask you?’” says Richard Slater. Even if they don’t ask, you could suggest a couple of topics.

#4 Know your message

If you’re a member of a consortia or have a PR representative, run through what you’re going to talk about with them. They may have up-to-date information on the subject. Prepare two or three key messages you want to get across. “Then imagine you’re on Question Time and make sure you get your message across, regardless of what they ask you,” advises Graeme Brett.  

#5 Hit the right note

Give your notes a last-minute once-over beforehand. It’s obvious to the audience when someone is reading out loud from a script during an interview, so don’t do it.  What’s more, says Gemma Antrobus: “Once you make eye contact with your screen, keep doing it, otherwise it makes you look shifty and nervous.”

#6 Last-minute check

The producer will check in 10 minutes or so before going on air, so this is the time to confirm with them that you are looking in the right direction, or that the sound is OK.

#7 Show your best light

Good lighting is vital for TV. “It’s always best if you sit with the light in front of you,” says Gemma Antrobus. “Overhead lights are terrible for TV. You could buy a ring light from Amazon, with different settings. Work out which setting is best and where you’re going to put it.” She adds: “There’s no reason why you can’t go into the office if the lighting, background or broadband is better.”

#8 Speak with passion and conviction, but not negativity

It’s a tough time out there at the moment but appearing ‘on the brink’ is not a good look. “Negativity is damaging to the industry and will put customers off booking,” warns Graeme Brett.

#9 Live v pre-recorded

A live broadcast may sound daunting but our agents say they prefer it. Graeme Brett says: “A recorded interview will be edited and the message may not come across as you wanted.” Richard Slater adds: “When it’s live, I get it right first time. I’m a lot more concise.”

#10 Watch out for the curve ball

“This happened to me recently when I was asked about vaccinations,” says Gemma Antrobus. “I will always try to say: ‘I’m not an expert in this field’. I answered by saying: ‘Personally I don’t feel I need a vaccination to go to the pub, however, this may be what is needed to enable people travel on holiday or to see family again.’ Try to give a balanced answer, from both a personal and professional point of view.”

#11 Remember it’s an interview, not an advert

Any attempt to say your agency is the best in the region will be frowned upon in a live interview and will be edited out of a pre-recorded one, so don’t bother. Instead, use to time to highlight the benefits of booking with a local agent, who’s knowledgeable and can provide personal service.

#12 Share on social media

After the interview, tweet or post a thank you message to the broadcast station for the opportunity.