In today’s #TVTuesday blog post, I’m interviewing Twin Cities Live’s Kelli Hanson. What do we cover? Amy Poehler, the glamorous (and not so glamorous) parts of her job, what the best pitches are for a lifestyle show like hers and who her dream interview is – and so much more. What a fun interview!

1. Tell us about your role at KSTP-TV’s Twin Cities Live and how long you’ve been there.– I am the reporter for Twin Cities Live, taking over that position as of December 2018. Previously on Twin Cities Live, I was a reporter and producer (split about 70/30). I have been with the show for 8-years!

2. People often think that if you’re on TV, your job is so glamorous – especially if you’re on a program like Twin Cities Live (food, fashion and fun!).  Tell us about the glamorous side AND tell us about the not so glamorous side of your job!– I hear that A LOT! In reality…it is pretty glamorous. I get to wake up and do something I love every single day. There are fun perks like getting to try a new restaurant, a new spa, meeting amazing people and telling their stories. Unbeknownst to a lot of people, we don’t have hair and makeup for our weekday live show. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good and pretty fast and doing something with my hair and face in a pinch! As far as the not so glamorous side to this job – social media can be tricky and people can be hurtful. You learn very quickly in this business to not take what people say about you (to your face or behind your back) to heart. It’s a hard lesson to learn, especially when someone questions your character or even parenting abilities, after seeing you on their TV for even 2 minutes. I am grateful that people allow me to come into their homes and lives every single day but being in the public means people often think they *really know you. My TV job accounts for a small percentage of who I am. I’m a mom, a wife and a really good friend. I just love storytelling and found a way to make a living doing that!

2.  What are the most exciting three interviews you’ve been able to do while you’ve been at Twin Cities Live?  What made them great interviews?  – I recently was given the opportunity to interview Country Music superstar, Trisha Yearwood . I loved our interview because she made me feel uber comfortable. She arrived about 10 minutes before our live shot and we were really able to connect and not just talk about preparing for the interview. It made the interview seamless, knowing she felt comfortable with me and vice versa.

I interviewed, Amanda Brinkman, the Chief Brand and Communications Officer at Deluxe Corp. She’s a powerhouse boss babe and I’m not going to lie, I was pretty intimidated going into the interview. As an interviewer, you want to command the interview…you want to be prepared, but also not too prepared. This gives room for organic conversation and essential very organic answers. She complimented me on knowing about the company, knowing who she was and taking control of the interview. It was a boost of confidence you don’t always get. When someone likes a question I ask, tell me! That connects me deeper to the story.

Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Paula Pell – I recently interviewed these funny ladies for a Netflix movie junket. 3 comedic legends in a 3 minutes interview? Amazing and scary all at the same time. I was pretty prepared for the interviews…asking questions about the movie, but also taking things into far-left field. They rolled with the punches and were super receptive to every question I asked. I was literally the second to last person to interview them during the movie junket and while they could have come across as annoyed or tired, they acted as if I was the first reporter, they had met all day.

3. When you’re interviewing stars and celebrities, how do you determine what you’re going to ask them – especially when it is a movie “junket” (when they sit for an entire day being interviewed by journalists and you want your questions to stand out a little!)? – The key is to be more prepared than you think you should be, even though you know the interview could and likely will take a different turn. I typically go in with 2 base questions and 2 off the beaten path questions. I usually start with a question they’re not expecting. I hate asking, “So tell me about the movie.” This is a question they get over and over and over again. My latest junket was for the movie “Wine Country”. Instead of asking Maya Rudolph about the movie, I took a piece of the movie and used it as a jumping off to point to talk about her obsession with Prince. Then all of the ladies went off on a tangent about how they love Minneapolis. It was gold! Last Spring, I traveled to London to interview Keira Knightly and instead of talking about the movie for the first 3 minutes of the interview, we talked about how beautiful British accents were. I kept making her say things in a forced American accent and it was great! I threw in a movie question at the end and it was enough!

4. Who would love to interview that you haven’t interviewed and why?  – I would love to interview Reba McEntire! I’m a country music lover, but I also think she just seems so genuine and fun. I have a feeling it wouldn’t even feel like an interview….and those are the best kind!

5. I realize there is no “typical” day for you, but can you give us a sense of what in your life looks like? – I get in around 9am and typically have my first shoot by 10 or 10:30am. I use the free hour before shoots to catch up on emails, start working on that days segments or write stories. I try and shoot at least a couple days out from an air date. This gives me time to watch the interviews, grab the soundbites I need and write. This is on top of working on the day’s segments and heading out to shoots. A typical day would have 2 to 3 shoots, on top of any in-studio segments I’m working on. Those in studio segments could be stories airing that have an extra in studio element. Every day is different for me and I actually relish in sitting in front of my computer for an entire day! But the busier I am, the more productive! I usually head out of the office by 5 or 5:30, unless I’m heading to a late shoot, an appearance or Twin Cities Live event.

6. When local and national public relations people pitch stories to you, what makes you sit up and take notice of a pitch?  And, on the flip side, what makes you want to hit “delete”? – I always notice when they’ve just looked at my bio and know nothing about our show. I can also tell when “Hi Kelli” is inserted on the top of an email that’s gone out to hundreds of reporters. I know it takes extra time to create a personable email for each person they pitch, but that extra effort definitely gets noticed. However, I know this isn’t possible every time, especially when it comes to press releases. I immediately delete emails that call our show a “morning show”…or refer to “readers” or ask about contributing an “article.” This happens at least 3 times a week. 

7. If you could provide one or two pieces of advice to public relations people about dealing with a reporter on a program like Twin Cities Live, what would it be?  – Twin Cities Live is very different from news, so keep that in mind! We’re willing to do things a little different. Actually, very different. We like to be active on our show. Very rarely do I do a standard sit-down story. I want to be part of the story…this helps me take our viewer there. So if there’s something I can do in the story, the better!

8. You do a lot of live shots and a lot of taped interviews.  Do you prefer one over the other?  Why?  – While I love being live, I really love putting stories together. The spontaneity of live shots is exciting and fun, but I enjoy the puzzle of putting soundbites together with story line for our show. I also get very invested in the stories I tell because the people telling them have put their trust in me as a reporter. 

9.  Any tips for people who are being interviewed live (or taped) that you can provide?  – Don’t worry about what to do with your hands, don’t worry about how your standing, don’t worry about needing a script, or even needing all of the questions I’m going to ask before I get there. I want the interview to feel like we’re old friends seeing each other for the first time in a while and we’re just catching up! A lot of people get caught up on what I’m going to ask. I always tell the person I’m interviewing that I won’t throw them a curveball…they’re the expert and I’m just a curious person! If I accidentally throw them a curveball, we can edit! 

10. Anything else you’d like to add?  – The one other thing I would mention is email and follow-ups! I get at least 20-30 pitches a day…local and national. I can’t always get back to every single one that day. I say give the reporter 48 hours to get back to you before you follow up – especially if it’s a local pitch. And keep that in mind when pitching. If your event or story idea is happening the same week as your pitch, don’t expect people to be available. A lot of us are working at least a week out. We fill our show 1-2 weeks out. Every now and then a segment drops and we’ll need something, but luckily that is pretty rare. Also, if you’re pitching something happening 3 months from now, it will get lost! We see emails about events in September and we’ll keep it in our inbox, maybe flag it, but we’re very focused on what’s happening that week and that month.


Follow Kelli Hanson at @kellitcl on Instagram and watch her show every afternoon from 3-4:30 pm on 5 Eyewitness News in the Twin Cities.