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10 Tips for Successful Media Appearances

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In this article, you'll learn...

  • Ten tips for mastering media appearances
  • Five key guidelines to follow during media interviews

"If you want to quickly build your personal brand and become a recognized industry expert, media appearances are essential," says Judy Jernudd, founder of Startegic, a branding company in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Judy is a sought-after keynote speaker, the author of Media Star Power: The ABCs to Successful TV, Radio, Print, and Net Interviews, and the creator of the Media Star Power Coaching Kit. She is frequently interviewed in the media as an expert on influence and brand image. I contacted her after attending her "Media Star Power" webinar in February.

According to Judy, media exposure is a great way to quickly raise your profile... but you need to know certain things to ensure that your media appearances—whether on a blog, in a YouTube video, or on CNN—are successful.

Here are 10 tips that will ensure your media appearances are star quality.

1. Be a bona fide expert


For MarketingProfs readers, this tip is likely obvious; but, Judy says, it is not so obvious for more people than you might think. When you claim to be an expert on something, the media expect your knowledge of and experience with that topic to be deep. Those in the media will assume that you can easily and clearly answer any questions an interviewer might pose about your subject of expertise.

"If you are not an expert on the stated topic, and don't really know what you're doing, do not take the interview," Judy warns. "Instead, find [for] the producer or the assignment editor someone who is qualified to talk about the topic at hand." Judy says this point cannot be overemphasized.

But expertise isn't sufficient. "Not only must you be an expert, you need to be able to clearly articulate what it is that you are an expert on," says Judy.

2. Make your expertise—and how it applies to the story—clear to the media

One of the biggest complaints Judy hears from those in the media is that they can't easily figure out what an "expert" really does or knows by looking at the expert's website. And, sometimes, they can't even figure that out when speaking directly with the person!

You should be able to explain what you do and what you can talk about in one or two sentences. (Think elevator speech.)

"The media is in the business of telling stories," says Judy. "They want you because your expertise can help them create a 360-degree view of the story, making it more interesting and relevant to their audience. You need to be able to quickly demonstrate how your expertise will add dimension to the story they are trying to tell."

3. Stick to what you know

Know where your expertise begins and ends, and don't stray too far outside of it, Judy advises.

For example, a nutrition expert who has written a book on diets could appear on different media outlets and discuss the many aspects of diet—health, lifestyle, cooking, etc.—because those topics are all related. If offered an interview about a topic outside her purview (e.g., time management) the expert should refer the opportunity out even if she thinks her personal time-management skills are great.

Judy's advice: "If you're offered the opportunity to speak on something outside your area of expertise, the correct response is, 'You know, I'm probably not the best person for that segment, but I will find you someone who is. Let me call you back in a few minutes.'" The media folks will appreciate your help and remember you as a resource.

Referring that producer to someone who is a true expert is a far better approach than risking being unable to answer a question a true expert would field with ease, according to Judy. You usually won't know exactly what questions will be asked. If every other response you give to the interviewer is "I've never been asked that" or "I don't know," you will both look bad... and you won't be asked back.

4. Maintain your brand integrity

When offered an interview, consider the implications of the topic, and make sure discussing it fits with your brand and will bolster—rather than potentially damage—its integrity.

Judy recalls being asked to appear on The O'Reilly Factor (with Bill O'Reilly) to talk about Paris Hilton's sex tapes. She agreed to appear, but only after making it clear that she would discuss the topic only in terms of brand damage control... not just pertaining to Hilton, who, because of her name and lineage, was "born a brand." Discussing brand damage or reputation damage, not celebrity gossip, fits Judy's brand image.

Evaluate every opportunity for its potential impact (positive and negative) on your influence and image.

5. Know your audience(s)

If you are a true expert, don't take that for granted. Just because you know something does not mean everyone else knows it. "We all live in different worlds, and we understand our world perfectly. What experts do is give us a peek into a different world," says Judy.

People need the information you can provide, and those in the media know that. "The media need you as much as you need them," says Judy. The challenge, Judy says, is to match up your needs with what the media needs.

When considering who in the media you should reach out to, ask yourself, "Who needs the information I have?" Find the intersection of what your audience needs and what you know that would appeal to that particular media outlet's audience.

6. Pitch smart

Judy says she's a maverick in this area: "Everyone says don't call the media. I disagree. The majority of media say they prefer email, yet they are all inundated with email." Judy says a laser-focused phone pitch to the right person/department can be very effective. And, according to Judy, those in the media don't want to receive faxes or media kits either, unless requested.

If you want to try email pitches, many news websites provide a way to send tips and story ideas to the assignment editor, the person who "assigns" stories to reporters. Others who book guests include talent bookers or associate producers. And, in some cases, reporters will call you if you have a savvy media page on your site. Do the research needed to identify the right people to contact.

Spend time to craft your pitch so that the person understands exactly what you have to offer, how your expertise is relevant to the story she is working on, and how to get in contact with you.

Then, be available. That point is so important it merits its very own tip.

7. Be available

And that means... around the clock, 24/7.

"When the media needs you, they need you now," says Judy. Ensure those in the media know how to contact you—even in the middle of the night. (If news is breaking, for example, and a media outlet needs you for a morning show segment, chances are you'll hear from someone in the middle of the night.)

Give those media contacts your personal cell phone number, and make sure you see and answer their calls as soon as possible. Understand that on the Internet they can find about 8,000 other people who do what you do, so they are not going to wait. It's called "news" for a reason!

8. Prepare

When you do receive a call, don't jump right into the interview, advises Judy. Find out what the media outlet's deadline is, and tell the person who called you that you will call her back. Take time to find out the essence of the story, collect your thoughts, and create some sound bites.

"There is nothing worse than thinking, 'I wish I had said...,' or worse, 'I wish I hadn't said...' after an interview," says Judy. Therefore, preparation is essential.

9. Deliver what you promised

This tip is a corollary to tip No. 1 (Be an expert). Don't overhype anything—ever. If you're invited to talk about branding, provide that information during the interview. Don't continually refer people to your book or your website for information. If a media outlet wants to film you live, be honest about what your office looks like or, if you work from home, whether your home is a disaster. Be creative with an interview location by finding one that complements your story.

To illustrate this point, Judy relates a story from her career as a television newscaster when she was looking for a Fourth of July story, something besides the typical fireworks and beaches. Judy was pitched a story about people who prepare elaborate picnic baskets for the Hollywood Bowl. The pitch promise: "Our store looks like Disneyland!" Long story short, Judy walked into the store with a full crew only to find that the store was devoid of elaborate picnic baskets. She and the crew left without doing the story, and you can bet that they never responded to another pitch from that store's owner.

The other way to look incredibly bad, Judy says, is to agree to do an interview and then cancel. Again, you can kiss any future coverage by that news organization goodbye.

Because her company, Startegic, provides media coaching, Judy was too polite during our chat to emphasize this next point, so I will do it for her.

10. Invest in media coaching

Most people do not realize how they come across on camera or how they sound over the airwaves. A good media coach can bring awareness of nonverbal messaging, appearance, word choice, and unconscious (unbecoming) habits to the surface so they can be eliminated.

A coach will also help you understand the rhythm of news segments and how to give the interviewer exactly what she is looking for without sounding like a commercial. (This skill is a big reason you see the same experts appear over and over on different programs.)

Every one of my clients who has been media-coached has said the experience was enlightening, and that much more goes into being an expert than meets the eye.

In her practice, Judy offers five guidelines for what to do during a media interview to make it shine:

  1. If you're doing a phone interview, do the interview standing up. Speak clearly, using the same vocal inflections and gestures you would in an in-person interview.
  2. If the interview is in-studio or on radio, avoid giving overly long answers. You might take up the entire segment. (That may sound good, but it is actually bad.)
  3. Understand that even if a reporter interviews you for 45 minutes, you may see only 20 seconds of that interview on the air. Reporters are looking for that perfect sound bite that fits into their story.
  4. If an interviewer asks whether you have anything else you'd like to add at the end of the segment, that is your cue to direct viewers/listeners to your website for more information (or use any other call to action). The media understand your willingness to get up at 3 AM to prep for a call is connected to not only your desire to help them but also your desire to raise awareness with your audience.
  5. Finally, if you're new to media appearances, start small. Your local TV news and local radio are good places to start. You want to have some experience under your belt before you go on national news for the first time, otherwise, without coaching, doing so can be terrifying.

* * *

To make successful media appearances, you need to have actual expertise, and you need to clearly communicate what your expertise is, stick to what you know, maintain your brand's integrity, know your audience, pitch smart, make yourself available at all times, prepare for your interview, deliver what you promise, and invest in media training.

Whew.

Now, get out there and do it so that you can become the media star you know you're meant to be!


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Helena Bouchez is principal and owner of Helena B Communications (www.helenabcommunications.com). Reach her via helena@helenabcommunications.com or follow her on Twitter (@HelenaBouchez).

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  • by Tom Maddocks Thu May 10, 2012 via web

    Some really good points agree with nearly everything here, especially the bit about getting a good media coach!! As someone who runs many media training courses in the UK ( http://www.mediatrainingassociates.co.uk ) with so-called subject experts, I think points one and two are particularly important. Often the real experts turn down interviews because they think they don't have enough information on the specific angle or 'news peg' the TV or radio station is looking for and actually all they need is enough to sustain for 2-3 minutes. Conversely some 'experts' have specialist knowledge on particular aspects of their topic, but fail to realise the journalist is often looking for the bigger picture and broader trends. They should always be ready to deliver these, and not get bogged down in detail which they find fascinating, but the audience doesn't.

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