Dolly Parton works much more than 9 to 5

By Roz Morris, Managing Director, TV News London Ltd

'Working 9 to 5 – what a way to make a livin' sings Dolly Parton in her hit song from the 1980 film now made into a musical that's coming to the UK soon.  She sang a snatch of the song on BBC TV 's Breakfast programme, this week speaking live from Nashville, Tennessee,  to promote the '9 to 5' musical.  It's already had a 5 month run on Broadway, and will be opening in Manchester in October.   

Dolly's interview was so revealing, not because she was wearing anything especially showing off her famous cleavage, (unlike Madonna of which more later), but  because it really put the spotlight on how much more than a 9 to 5 commitment even a household name superstar has to be prepared to make to stay successful.   And how – just as you should when promoting your business or organisation – she really makes an effort and takes the time to take the media seriously.

Her interview was a master class in how to give an effective promotional interview. Plenty of easy charm, smiles, folksy chat and conversation addressing the questions she was asked, but also lots of solid promotion throughout.  She's now in her mid sixties and she's been a star for a long time so she has many years of experience of giving TV interviews. Plus she knows how to stage her interviews and get her branding across.  There was a poster for the 9 to 5 musical in shot throughout and she had the numbers 9 and 5 woven in among the sequins on her black jacket.

What can humbler mortals learn from Dolly?  Well it's pretty simple really. Whenever she gives an interview, she never loses sight of her goal. She works out what she wants to say. She has an agenda for every interview she gives and she sticks to it  – totally professional throughout.   And entertaining. And boy does she work hard.

Tellingly for those who might think that being a successful multi millionaire singer, songwriter, celebrity and businesswoman is an easy role to maintain, her BBC Breakfast interview demonstrated how truly hard working she is. Her interview was going out live at nine o'clock in the morning in the UK and she was asked by one of the presenters what time it was in Nashville.

"It's three am here" she said smiling brightly from under her immaculate hair and makeup which obviously must have taken time to prepare before the interview.  I mean somehow I think we all know she didn't just tumble out of bed and stumble into the studio in Nashville with minutes to go.  No sirree not her.  She has her own recognisable look which is high maintenance at any time of day or at any age. She took the time to look good.

Dolly is a class act and her 3 am statement was a triumph.  It was truly splendid both in terms of wowing the audience and also in showing that she is ready for anything anytime. Asked about Madonna's latest bra dropping incident, she brushed it aside without condemnation or approval.  "She does her thing. I wouldn’t want to criticise a fellow performer."

In response to a question about rumours of her performing or filming with Madonna and Lady Gaga, she was tactful and practical.. "I'm not chasing them and I've heard nothing. But if it comes along I wouldn't say no – I'm always looking for new things  to do."

She has a very useful technique of sometimes pausing slightly before some of her answers. This helps in dealing with the slight time delay on the live link but also gives her more authority and puts her in control.  It gives her time to think and position herself – thinking quickly of course.  No-one can ever say that Dolly Parton isn't quick thinking.  

So Dolly did all the right things for a successful TV interview. She knew what she wanted to say. She was bandbox smart and she looked bright and alive and glad to be there in a studio even in the very early hours of the morning.  How many people who put themselves forward for TV interviews on behalf of their companies and organisations are ready to make that sort  of commitment of time and effort?  

It's a big 24 hour media world – and media demands don't just apply to celebrities.  You won't be live on Chinese TV or make an impact in Australia or India or Brazil or South Africa or the USA or anywhere really if you're only prepared to work 9 to 5.

Then Dolly clinched it. She added casually,  completely nailing down her superwoman image, that she is usually up at 3 am.  "The camera crew are sleepy, but I'm an early riser. I'm always up at this time."

She finished with singing the first lines of  'Jolene' at the request of the now totally eating out of her hand BBC presenters.   She made it all look so easy.  If you want do anything half as good in a TV interview, you'll need to work hard too.  You may not have to sing  a Dolly Parton song,  but you do have to plan what you want to say, make sure you say it on air, and look confident and pleased to be there however tired you really are.  

Take Dolly Parton seriously and take the media seriously. Not a sentence I ever dreamed I'd write.  But it's true.

Good Golly Miss Dolly as Little Richard might well have put it.

Watch the interview:

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Published 21 June 2012