This is Part One of a mini media training for artists, authors, entrepreneurs and anyone getting ready to be questioned.
As long as you’re prepared, you have no reason to be scared!
There’s no publicity like FREE publicity, especially if you run a small business on a small budget.
Right now I’m the media manager and PR-advisor to “Music for MS,” a benefit concert organized by and featuring my wife.
It’s my job to drum up as much media interest for this event as possible, and fill up the venue in a few weeks, by word of mouth and other means.
Every glossy flyer or multicolored poster we would print or ad we’d have to buy, would mean less money for the cause (the National Multiple Sclerosis Society), so I’m not doing that. Instead, I’m mobilizing the local press and I’m using social media to reach out to the community. It saves tons of paper which makes it eco-friendly.
The official campaign began yesterday, and so far we’ve already landed two interviews. This is where things get serious. Anyone can write a glorious press release, but not everyone does well on radio, television or in the papers. I know what I’m talking about because I have trained hundreds of people to get ready to meet the press.
YOU ARE UNINTERESTING
One of the first things my students would always complain about is the focus of the media: Why do they only cover sensational stories? Why has the news become so superficial? Why don’t they come to me for a story? What they’re really saying is this: “Paul, you’re a journalist. I’m interesting and you should interview me!”
My knee-jerk response would be: “No you’re not, and why should I?” But of course I’d keep that to myself. Here’s what I’d say instead:
1. You have to have a hook to be heard.
If your name is Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton, you don’t have to do anything special to attract the attention of millions. In fact, that would be your only accomplishment: being famous for being famous. Mere mortals such as you and me have to give the news media a good REASON why they’d want to come to us. A hook. Preferably with fresh bait.
News is the report of an event that is:
- previously unknown and
- interesting and relevant to a great number of people
Let me add something to that definition: If there’s nobody to cover it, it’s not news. Fortunately or unfortunately, these days, all we need is one idiot with an iPhone.
Secondly, news is news if conglomerates like Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation or Bertelsmann AG decide we should learn about it.
Third, news is news if the corporate sponsors (or other powers that be) feel it does not undermine their interests. (click here for an example)
Fourth: the more local the outlet, the lower the bar for what is deemed to be newsworthy.
Let’s assume you’re a voice-over professional hoping to attract some interest from the local papers. You’ve just completed another audio book. That’s something recent, but is it news?
Well, it depends on how unusual the book is and how many people would be interested in it. If we are talking about the audio version of Hitler’s secret diaries that were thought to be lost, you might have a story, but I don’t think this type of publicity would do your career any good. Which brings me to my next point.
2. You have to have a clear objective.
What do you ideally want to happen as a result of the media attention you hope to generate? Unless you’re hungry for recognition, an interview is just a means to an end.
In the case of my concert, the overall goal is to raise money and awareness for the fight to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic, mysterious and often misunderstood disease of the central nervous system. In order to accomplish that, I need as many people as possible to come to the concert. This gives me a way to measure the success of my campaign.
Please note: what you hope to accomplish and what the journalist wishes to accomplish, are usually two very different things!
If you don’t know what you want to get out of the interview, don’t do it. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to. It’s better to wait for the perfect opportunity than to waste a mediocre one.
If you do have an objective in mind, it’s time to go to the next step:
3. You have to craft a compelling core message.
If you could summarize what you’d like to get across in one or two sentences, what would it be? Let me put it in another way: If at the end of the interview people would only remember one thing, one powerful image or one great idea, what would you want that to be?
That should become the heart of your message, and it is your mission to get it across no matter what.
In the age of information overload, it is harder and harder to cut through the clutter and be heard. People scan the news and rarely look past the headlines or sound bites, so give them headlines and sound bites. You’ll survive.
I don’t care if you think it’s shallow or giving in to sensationalism. Should you get the chance to reach thousands, if not millions of people, don’t waste it by being boring. It’s regrettable to be forgettable.
A sound bite is usually not something you’ll come up with when the intimidating cameras are rolling and you’re staring into the hot, blinding studio lights. Do not count on your magic talent for improvisation. You can’t wing it.
4. You have to be prepared.
Well, well… isn’t that a given? Of course you need to give it some thought. Or is it better to be spontaneous and ‘in the moment’? You don’t want to look too rehearsed, do you?
Here’s my take on that.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen people make is not preparing for an interview. They’ve literally said to me: “But I’m the expert. You can throw any question at me any time. I don’t need interview training.”
Just because you’re an expert doesn’t mean you’ll do well during an interview. Readers, listeners, viewers… they all hate pompous know-it-alls that talk over people’s heads.
I have seen great thinkers, captains of industry and even bishops nearly faint because they couldn’t handle the pressure of the simplest unexpected question.
They approached a 2-minute interview as if they were delivering a half-hour sermon, and when time was up, they had said nothing of significance. Of course they’d blame the network for not giving them enough air time.
Everyone who’s ever been interviewed will agree with me: When you’re in the hot seat, time as we know it does not exist. In the stress and excitement of the moment, people forget the simples of things such as their middle names and the phone number of the organization they’ve come to promote.
Here’s the good news: it doesn’t have to be that way. In the next installment I’ll tell you how to deal with tricky questions.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice