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How to adapt your message – when you need to be light and chatty about more serious subjects


Sienna Hat

A “serious” scientific client impressed me so much.

The client’s communication team had done its homework.

The comms team knew to reach the target audience, the best way was to appear on not traditional news media – but  on the growing number of shows where the news is used as discussion/chat material and even joke material for younger comedians and commentators.

Channel Ten has a younger audience and many of these types of shows such as The Project.

Others desirable programs were  the commercial channel TV morning talk shows and radio shows – not the news.

The ABC also has shows aimed at younger audiences.

My brief was to help the spokesperson be ”good talent” for these types of shows and to be more chatty and entertaining.

I’d had requests like this before and from experience, talent needs to:

  1. Tighten up the key messages (more interview is taken up with chat and jokes and laughter)
  2. Loosen up the delivery style – body language and speaking style.

(I do NOT suggest artificially trying to sound hip with “young person talk” as Kevin Rudd has been lampooned for)

I mean – sound like you are chatting rather than trying to remember and repeat key messages –  word for word.

Luckily, I can help with my experience on morning TV and a lighter  more chatty interviewing style.

TB today shoot

So we recorded test interviews on video and  the comms team and I gave the client feedback on how to be more “chatty”.

I did a similar project with a different client wanting to be good talent for morning TV shows . During that assignment I could see this other client looked obviously  frustrated and uncomfortable at the host’s detours and diversions and making light of a serious subject. YOu’ve got to hide that frustration and that’s why practice interviews help you be aware and prepare.

My feedback:

  1. You have to be prepared for these off-topic detours and
  2.  Don’t look worried or frustrated that you are running out of time to get your messages across

Also, it’s important that in shows where comedian types  (or those hosts who think they are funny)  have fun with the news – you can play along with them, but remember they are the stars.

Remember, you are the topic talent – not the comedian. Don’t be funnier than the host.

Also, look as though you are enjoying the host’s jokes.  (Watch Morning TV shows and you’ll see the “good talent” – guests who  play along but do not upstage the hosts.

My client did very well in our test interview:

  1. He looked relaxed and not worried by the detours
  2. He played along – but didn’t try to be too funny
  3. He still got his main messages across. We had prepared fewer and shorter messages knowing that much of the chatty style would be taken up with lighter chat

Another tip:

If you use pop culture references – make sure that the target audience can relate to your references.

Different generations have different pop culture reference points.

For example, from a different assignment, a  different scientific type was talking about the importance of fashion in the sun safety of the young.

He spoke about the benefits of those big floppy hats worn in the 70s by Yoko Ono.

Yoko Ono hat

Many, but not all, younger people are not as aware of pop culture icons such as (The Beatles and Yoko Ono) cherished by earlier generations.

We searched for images of younger celebrities wearing those “Yoko Ono-type hats” (I’m sure they are not officially called that!)

We found that Sienna Miller wore those types of hats.

Sienna Hat

So we did the “double reference” technique – where you’d say something like:

“Those big hats made famous by Yoko Ono and now worn by Sienna Miller”.

You could even let the show’s segment producers know that you’ll be talking about Sienna Miller’s hats – so the show can get file footage or images to make the segment more colourful and visual – if it’s TV!

I was impressed that this different scientist knew who Sienna Miller was.

He said he made a point of reading the popular magazine (especially his wife’s magazines) to keep up with who the modern celebrities were.

This scientist was good with his research!

Anyway, the takeaways for you:

  1. Think of the media your target audience uses – e.g. for younger audiences – the more chatty shows using the news as discussion/chat segments
  2. Study the type of media and the people who are “good talent” on those shows
  3. Learn for adapt your style (as discussed above) for the more chatty style
  4. Record a practice interview and get feedback on what you are doing well and what you can improve
  5. Make sure any pop culture are suitable for the target audience

I love doing these types of media skills assignments – contact me if I can help you. I can also help  you with more serious news shows too.




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I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.

I’ve disciplined my self to check ALL my different communication platforms twice a day – as part of my Check-in Ritual.



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One comment on “How to adapt your message – when you need to be light and chatty about more serious subjects

  1. efangelist
    January 18, 2016

    Reblogged this on efangelist.

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