Sunday, December 16, 2007

Keep Your Own Appointment Book

Recently, two newsmakers with whom I've scheduled interviews a couple of weeks in the future have asked me to call them up the day before and remind them.

The immediate thought I had was, "This opportunity for you to speak to an international audience is not important enough to you for you to remember or write down on your calendar?" Instead of speaking my mind, I politely explained that if I had time, I might send an email reminder.

Most guest schedulers will send a confirmation so that you have something in writing to jog your memory. But asking for a reminder call is out of bounds. One of these newsmakers even had the nerve--or naivete--to ask me if I could call her 15 minutes beforehand and practice with her.

That sounds like someone who needs a soundbite coach to me!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Website Gives Everyone a Chance to Report

Citizen journalism makes all things equal. I received the following press release and wanted to share it with you for two reasons: 1) It's a way for you to get your story out, and 2) It's also an example of a long, but good press release. I have edited it a bit for length.

You Are the News! Five Reasons Why Citizen Journalism Is a Concept Whose Time Has Come

Tired of feeling unrepresented by the media machine? The solution is citizen journalism, which allows writers and viewers alike to decide for themselves what is timely, relevant, and newsworthy. Paul Sullivan, editor in chief of, offers his insights.

New York, NY (November 2007)—A few short years ago when a big story broke, the nation would anxiously wait for reporters to share the scoop with the folks at home. Today, the image of families crowded around the TV has a slightly anachronistic feel, almost as though the flat screen set is the glowing radio of WW II lore. The ubiquitousness of the Internet has changed everything. Not only does news travel faster, it may be accessed via any Web site, blog, or virtual community of your choosing. No surprise, then, that "we the people" are not only shaping how we get the scoop, we're demanding a hand in dishing it out as well.

"Journalism is changing right alongside the technology that brings it to us, and a whole new style of reporting has emerged," says Paul Sullivan, a veteran newspaper editor and editor in chief of citizen journalism site "Listen closely. That sound you detect is nothing less than the powerful voice of the people demanding to be heard."

What is citizen journalism? As the name suggests, it's the act of untrained everyday citizens assuming the role of reporter and sharing their stories in the first person. And it's not just some "fringe" movement; it's becoming downright mainstream. This month, as massive wildfires ripped across Malibu, San Diego, and other parts of the California countryside, CNN begged for eyewitness accounts of the live destruction for their "I-View" news segments—showing that even big networks acknowledge the growing need to involve the masses in history-making newscasts.

Sullivan says, founded byentrepreneur Sam Yehia, was born from this desire to give average people with extraordinary (and ordinary) stories an outlet for sharing what they know. This interactive Web site is a grassroots platform from which citizen journalists can tell it like it is and have their stories acknowledged by hundreds of thousands of visitors a month. And what's more exciting is if the audience likes a story, they can tip the author online!

"'Orato' comes from the Latin word meaning 'I speak,'" says Sullivan. "It's hard for today's news machine to do justice to current issues and the real experiences of people involved in them. We showcase vivid, first-person stories from individuals involved in current events or living amazing lives. Whether it is politics, sports, entertainment, science, love, or war, captures news and stories in their rawest form. We are a celebration of every person's right to be heard in his or her own words."

Whereas most news stations tend to lean a little (or perhaps a lot) to the left or right, covers all kinds of stories and opinions. For example, recent entries include a compelling argument on gun control alongside a first-person account from a minuteman. Anyone can post a story, and if you don't fancy yourself a writer, you can share your viewpoint via audio, video, or photo essay.

The key difference between and traditional media? On, the subject owns the story. Everyone who shares his or her story gets the final editorial cut. "It's their story," says Sullivan. "Why shouldn't they get to tell it the way they want to tell it?" divides its stories into several categories. For instance:
*Current Events *E-Buzz *Mysteries
*Love & Sex *Sports *Travel & Adventure
*Health & Science *Lifestyles *Arts & Entertainment

In addition, readers will find a newsletter to which they can subscribe, along with the option to join Orato Village, an interactive writer's community. The possibilities are virtually endless.
Since its inception in 2006, has steadily picked up steam. Currently, the site receives dozens of submissions each week, and the numbers are only increasing. Sullivan says's growing popularity is a gauge that measures the burgeoning acceptance of this exciting new trend known as citizen journalism.

Read on to discover five reasons why citizen journalism is here to stay:
The Internet rules the roost. Who knows how people managed to survive before life online? It's changed the way we work, shop, communicate, and—yes—stay on top of current events. Even the majority of those who grew up in an un-wired age now find it impossible to imagine society functioning without the Net. Because of the Internet's unprecedented speed and the scope of information available, more and more people "sign on" to get their news before (or often instead of) opening the paper or turning on the TV or radio.

Sites like fit in with the blogger's agenda. "People are no longer closet narcissists," laughs Sullivan. "They are proud to let the world know what's going on in their own lives." Web sites such as MySpace and FaceBook, not to mention YouTube and countless blogging sites, are thriving because people want to be seen and heard. is simply the next step to empowering the average citizen and giving him or her a voice. People are no longer hesitant to share what they know with the rest of the world—and more importantly, they are empowered by finding validation in that choice to be the ones telling the story.

People want to tell their own stories—in their own words. They are tired of being the fodder for some journalist's ambition. They are tired of being edited and excluded. Now, with, they have a chance to say what they mean. Perhaps surprisingly, they are no less candid when they control the agenda. They're working with a reporter they trust—themselves! "Quite often we get in touch with people who have been worked over in other media," says Sullivan. "Once they find out they can own their story on, they are amazed and wonder why no one thought to do it this way a long time ago."

People are ready to decide for themselves. Many people no longer feel the need to turn on the news to hear an anchorperson interpreting stories for them. Some people perceive traditional newscasts to be overly "PC," steered by sponsors, and watered down into sound bytes. They don't want to be hand-led, but rather have decided to draw their own conclusions. Society seeks the invested reporter. While news anchors and reporters consistently do a great job of telling the facts, they are still just doing their jobs. They are not personally invested in the story or in the lives of the people they report on—rather they are working for a paycheck. Citizen journalism, on the other hand, is usually reported in the first person. The speaker owns his or her story, so to speak, and with that story comes the passion and integrity that goes along with sharing something so personal.

"We live in a cynical world," notes Sullivan. "There are so many horror stories in the news that we've gotten numb. And when the news is reported by professionals who are taught how to 'sell' the story a certain way, well, people just don't buy it anymore. So when we see a story that's written from the heart, without compensation, we respond in a visceral way. It's powerful to hear a story from someone who deeply feels the words."

Citizen journalism sprinkles some surprising stories amid the expected ones. The traditional newscast consists of all the common stories people are used to hearing: the war in Iraq, local crime, weather, and politics. The same old stuff. We know what we will see and hear when we turn on CNN. That's not a bad thing, of course. Sometimes all we're seeking is tried and true coverage of a particular story. Other times, though, we crave the experience of looking behind Door #2 with no idea what might be lurking there. And while sites like usually do feature citizen journalists' take on major stories, they also include a healthy sprinkling of completely unexpected treats.

"Readers never know what they're going to get when they visit us," says Sullivan. We allow the people of the world to inform us of what is relevant, interesting, and powerful—and we are never disappointed with the stories that come pouring in from citizens worldwide. From ghost sightings at Gettysburg to hard news stories like the San Diego fires to celebrity confessions, we have it all, and it's all deemed worthwhile."

Perhaps the main reason citizen journalism is finding such a foothold is the "do it yourself" spirit that has permeated Western culture, says Sullivan. Our collective suspicion of government, Corporate America, and authority figures in general is manifesting in an "If you want something done right, do it yourself" attitude.

"People have started making fiercely independent choices regarding researching their own health issues, seeking medical treatment overseas, growing and cultivating their own food, and providing for themselves as never before," he points out. "Entrepreneurship is the new American dream. People want to make their own choices and live life as they see fit. Why shouldn't their news also reflect this drastic change?"
# # #
About is an entirely new kind of media organization, specializing in grassroots citizen journalism. Since its launch in June 2006, has become a place for newsmakers and ordinary people to tell their stories in their own words—a global community where readers can interact with writers and respond to stories with their own comments.'s 3,000 registered correspondents tell stories in a first-person voice. Unlike in traditional journalism, where "I" is a dirty word and subjectivity is suspect, actually encourages the "I" and the personal perspective behind the story, giving correspondents the final editorial authority on their byline stories. is not trying to replace traditional media; instead it provides a voice that traditional media cannot.

Get a Taste of with This Selection of Popular Stories
Curious about all that has to offer?

Below are bite-size story samples to whet your journalistic appetite. Dig in and enjoy.

The Bridge: Looking into the Abyss
by Eric Steel

As those footsteps took place, I knew it must have been the darkest moments of a human life, but because it occurred in public, on some level I believed the act was meant to be seen and understood. Suicide is something we choose not to see. It's not that it's not there. It's there in staggering numbers.

In the wake of 9/11 and the discussion that ensued regarding the "jumpers"—those who chose to leap to their deaths rather than perish in the flaming inferno—Eric Steel spent a year creating a documentary on suicide. As his setting he chose San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge: one of the most sought-after locales for desperate souls seeking peace. The resulting film gives people—those contemplating suicide as well as victims' families and friends—an opportunity to face the emotions and issues that the final leap conjure up.

I Spent 18 Years on Death Row
by Juan Roberto Melendez
I went to say goodbye to my friend who lived in the cell next to mine, but when I stood in front of him, I was suddenly unable to speak. I was happy, but part of me was still sad because I was leaving him and the others behind. The men who had taught me how to read and write, I was leaving them there to die. With tears running down his cheeks, my friend looked at me and said, "Don't get in trouble out there. Take care of yourself and your momma, and don't forget about us."
Serving a jail sentence as an innocent man is one of the grimmest fates imaginable, but it pales in comparison to knowing that that sentence ends with a trip to the electric chair. Sentenced in 1984, Juan Roberto Melendez, a Puerto Rican migrant worker, lived 18 years in a rat-infested Florida prison cell with no one to hear his voice. The tale of his incarceration and eventual release is a testament to the human spirit's impenetrable strength and courage.

Owen Wilson: After the Laughter
by Scott Cooper
Persistent sadness is considered weakness and no one will tolerate a basket case for long. Being a basket case is un-American. It's not in the brochure.
The compelling subject of depression will always be topic for debate. For many, it is the ultimate truth behind a fa├žade of contentedness. Most people living with depression disguise it well and live behind a mask that cloaks their despair. In the aftermath of Owen Wilson's shocking suicide attempt, Citizen Correspondent Scott Cooper faces his own battle with despair and the universal denial of the disease known as depression.

Fear and Cabin Fever in San Diego
by Mary Griffin
I feel like all I can do to help readers is to tell them to NOT wait for an emergency to think about being prepared.
A San Diego resident explains the complacency most of us face when we feel comfortable and safe in our environment. As the fires still rage across California, residents learn that disaster can strike anyone at anytime. One California resident learned the hard way. She shares the importance of preparing for the unexpected. By keeping a 72-hour kit with clothes, flashlights, and other supplies, people can be ready to escape to safety at a moment's notice.

# # # Q&A: Some Common Questions about Citizen Journalism and the Web Site That Gives It a Voice Paul Sullivan, editor of, takes a moment to tell us a little bit about this multi-faceted Web site and the future of citizen journalism.

Tell us a bit about who's running the show.
We at are journalists, designers, and all-around news junkies. We've all worked in the media before and understand the demand for relevant, thought-provoking, and useful stories. At the same time, we want the news to be delivered in a new, more colorful way—by adding the voices of the people we traditionally think of as the audience.

Talk about why is successful.
We feel that people today feel disenfranchised in the world. Most of us have something to say but too many people have no one to listen to them. There is a very real sense of helplessness because important issues are often overlooked by the traditional media. makes the point to reveal stories people want to read about and give everyday citizens a chance to be heard.

How did citizen journalism become what it is today?
More and more people are blogging and making their lives accessible to the public online. They are becoming empowered to interpret the world for themselves and citizen journalism is simply the next step in the evolution. Major news networks are adding segments devoted to citizen journalism as long as it fits in with the theme of their broadcast. We are taking it a step further to allow the people to choose the theme and its interpretation! And to top it off, we hand over final editorial authority to the authors. It's their story, after all.

What kinds of stories do you receive?
We get all kinds of responses and try to use as much as we can. We have had some pretty fascinating personalities submit stories. Duane "Dog" Chapman. Hollywood actor Corey Haim. And most recently, Mildred Muhammad, the ex-wife of the DC Sniper. And countless other "unknowns" who are no less interesting for their lack of celebrity. And we also have many traditional submissions regarding current events. We try to find that delicate balance of news that is relevant, thought-provoking, and at times edgy. We encourage anyone to bring us a story. And we are very satisfied with our results so far.

Do you edit or have a fact checker?
We won't print libelous statements, nor will we accept stories we find to be fabricated or plagiarized. Accuracy is the key to's credibility. We also encourage our correspondents and visitors to report stories they're concerned about.
So are there other platforms offered for the non-writing reporters out there?
Yes, we have a number of multi-media platforms to choose from in addition to text, including audio, video, and photo essay slideshows. There is a place for everyone!

What makes a great story for
We simply ask that the submitter uses his or her own words and keeps it simple. Even though the stories come from people not professionally affiliated with the media, we couldn't ask for better quality than what we receive. This suggests that a great story may have little to do with training in journalism. We forget that not so long ago, most reporters did not have journalism degrees. Anyone with a vision and a heart can tell a story—and do it justice.
So gets to the heart of journalism?
Let me put it this way. Reporters do a great job passing on secondhand information, but they are simply a mouthpiece for the story's source. But our stories are straight from the horse's mouth. You can't get a better interpretation anywhere because we go right to the source and liberate the speaker, so to speak.

Does support a specific political viewpoint or are you neutral? has one strong principle: we believe in freedom of speech for every man, woman, and child. There's too much censorship, even in America, where if you say something that's politically incorrect, you get pilloried. Human rights are important, but none of them work unless everyone has a right to say what they believe, even if what they believe is unpopular. If you don't break the law of the land, and if you respect our rules and guidelines, we'll post your story.

You have a few stories penned by celebrities or their families and friends. Please talk about this. Any interesting tidbits about these journalists?
Our editors have established some surprising relationships with celebrities. They think it's great that gives them the final editorial authority over their own words—they're used to being put down or distorted by the media. And most of the ones we talk to seem pretty conflicted about fame—they crave the public eye, but there are days when they just want to be left alone. We're there for them in ways that other media aren't. We're just interested in their own story, in their own words. is a sanctuary for celebrities!

So I hear word of a tip jar. Please elaborate on this feature of your Web site.
Budding writers, videographers, podcasters, and photographers can earn money for their pieces by the tips audience members offer, based on the popularity of their pieces. We keep looking for unique ways to put the power back into the hands of the people and this is one way to do it.

Where does most of your media come from?
The vast majority of our audience and our stories come from the US...more than 60 percent. Canada is the next biggest source and then, as you'd expect, other English-speaking countries such as Australia and New Zealand. But we've had stories posted from more than 100 countries around the world, from Norway to Tasmania.
# # #

Monday, November 12, 2007

Looking Your Best

I've been coaching a newsmaker who gives brilliant soundbites, but needs help when it comes to how he looks... not in terms of clothes or cosmetic appeal, but where he looks. When this fellow talks, he sticks his chin up. It makes it look as though he's looking down his nose at you in an arrogant manner. And to make it worse, his eyes dart around. He looks off in the distance, down at the floor, up at the ceiling--giving him the appearance of being shifty-eyed.

He's a quick learner, so he'll do fine in front of the TV cameras. But learn from his example. When you look at a reporter, tuck your chin down and hold eye contact. It's OK to look away, but do it slowly and deliberately.

That way, you'll always be looking good.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Don't Give Up

This year, I have been a full-time coach and speaker and a part-time radio host. I only spend a few hours a day at that job. I tell you that because there are probably other interviewers like me. You, as a prospective newsmaker or guest, are anxious to get booked or hear back from your publicist and you probably think, "Those lazy journalists! Why can't they decide if they want me sooner?"

So that you won't feel rejected or passed over... sometimes it just takes longer for us to get through the stacks of books, letters, emails and phone calls. I might book an author who sent me a book six months ago.

Here are ideas to get you to the top of the stack:

1. Call when we're there. Remember that morning programs likely have staff that work in the morning.

2. If you can find a mutual friend who can genuinely recommend you as a great fit, that helps. When we're trying to find a guest, an endorsement from someone we trust can make a difference.

3. Send an email and make a phone call. I work in an old building with unreliable connections, and the email spam filter is confining. Don't count on the fact that we get your emails.

4. Be persistent, but not pushy. Nothing turns reporters off more than someone who doesn't get the message. If the reporter does not show any interest or says "it's not a fit," move on. If the reporter asks for more information or asks you to call back in a few weeks or months, she's interested. Stay in touch.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Press Conferences

There are times when you might want to hold a press conference. When your company or organization has been hit by major crisis, for instance. Think Virginia Tech. Another time might be when good news is of such global proportions happens that people all over the world are interested. Think Iowa Septuplets or Nobel Peace Prize announcements.

Typically, the newsmaker will make a statement then take questions. It's good to let reporters in attendance know what's going on. Here are some ways to smooth your transitions.


1. My name is ___________________. It is spelled ________________. My title is _______________________. After I speak, our ___________________(title) will also speak. His/her name is _____________________ and it is spelled _________________.

2. After a short statement, I will take questions.


At this time, I welcome your questions. (Gesture, don't point to the reporter with a raised hand).


We must get back to taking care of this situation. Thanks for being here. We plan another press conference (tomorrow, in two hours, next week--make a promise you can keep).

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

When They Get It Wrong Again

When I was in Abilene, Texas last week speaking to newsmakers and public relations professionals, a common complaint was that reporters in the market were getting their facts wrong again and again. If I'd just heard this from one person, I might've thought she was having trouble communicating to the reporters. But I heard it from three different people. And they couldn't single out one station.

First, that scares me about what is going on in our journalism schools. If you're a professor, please make sure you're making a proper emphasis on credibility, accuracy and truth. If you're a student or recent graduate, know that the only good reputation you can earn is one based on reporting the facts.

Second, if this happens to you, take the steps I recommended in Abilene:

1. At every event, hand out a tip sheet or tip card... even if you've given it to the same reporter before. Just because she got it right last time doesn't mean she'll remember this time.

2. Hold an academy. One Fire Department's Public Information Officer got so fed up with the way the media reported incidents that he created a "school" in which reporters wear turnout gear, hold hoses and climb on ladders and engines. He strongly urges news directors in his market to let only those who have graduated cover his department.

3. Call the news director. Explain the steps you've taken to correct the situation with the reporter and give examples of mistakes that have aired. Ask the news director how you can help make sure the mistakes don't happen again.

4. Reward good behavior. If the reporter takes care and starts filing great stories, send a nice message on your letterhead. The reporter will hang this in her cubicle and file it with HR.

If none of these steps work, ask the news director to assign a different reporter to your events.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Quotes About News

"If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read 'President Can't Swim.'"

Lyndon Johnson

"News is a contact sport."

Dan Rather

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Suggested Questions

You may have heard me advise before that to prepare for your interview, you provide (and then practice) eight to ten questions to each media outlet.

I had the opportunity to practice what I preach a week ago when I was interviewed by a radio station in Abilene, Texas. I'm going to speak there Monday, and the sponsoring organization had set up the interview to drive registration for the event.

When you compose your questions, realize that there is no guarantee the host or reporter will ask you the questions. See my list below--the host asked most of them, and added a few of his own. Also, make sure you want to answer the questions you submit. On my radio show, I'll ask questions and the guest will say, "Great question!" I always laugh to myself and think, "It should be--it was one of yours." What gets me is when I ask a question right off the list, and the guest stumbles or acts like he or she has never heard it before.

Here is what I submitted. Maybe it will help you get an idea of questions for your list.

Suggested Questions for Lorri Allen

1. You’re coming to Abilene to help our newsmakers speak more confidently. Do you know who will be attending your session sponsored by the Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau?

2. Do you think our newsmakers need some help?

3. You’re speaking to this year’s kickoff of the Abilene Public Relations Organization. This is a neat group. Can visitors attend the meeting?

4. What are some of the most common questions you get about dealing with the news media?

5. What are the biggest problems you see?

6. What advice are you going to offer the students in your audience on the 24th?

7. In addition to helping business owners and community leaders be pro-active with their publicity, I understand you also help organizations having a crisis. Tell us a little about this.

8. Is it true you have special memories of this area?

(Always try to make the last question upbeat, and if you can localize your responses to the coverage area, so much the better. Just don't assume what some of our guests do--that because we are based in Fort Worth, Texas that we only broadcast there. Our audience stretches from Canada to the Gulf Coast.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Heart of An Interviewee

Mellanie True Hills is on a mission to save lives. She is a heart health expert, speaker, coach, author of the award-winning A Woman's Guide to Saving Her Own Life and best-sellers on technology topics, and founder of the American Foundation for Women's Health and its non-profit atrial fibrillation patient resource, For her past interviews and resources for the media, check out her press room and the press room.

Mellanie is doing so much right with the news media that I asked her to answer a few questions to help readers of this blog.

Lorri: Mellanie, you’ve made yourself a resource to reporters so that they come back to you every time there’s a women’s heart issue in the news. How did you create these relationships?

Mellanie: I believe in giving reporters what I'd want if I were in their shoes and in going the extra mile to help them put together the best story possible. Here are some of my philosophies in working with reporters:

· Respond immediately, making myself available whenever is most convenient for them (i.e., weekends, evenings, early, late, etc.)
· Ask what they want to cover and where they want the story to go so I can focus my comments and time with them most effectively
· Be flexible and help the writer shape the story
· Give as much time and information as they want, and provide information, tips, sidebar content, unique insights, and even other resources to round out the story (even sending them to my competitors since there is plenty to go around)
· Point them to my online press room for photos and other resources
· Offer to follow up in the future with new stories or an update for next heart month or stroke month—because of this, we frequently become "old friends" and there are several for whom I've done three, four, and five interviews over the past couple of years

Lorri: As a professional speaker and nice person, you definitely have great conversational skills. Do you have a conversational strategy when it comes to creating soundbites?

Mellanie: You're so kind. Thank you. I think that the sound bites and short stories that work well for speaking audiences also work well for radio, TV, and print, so I use those sound bites and stories in interviews.

In preparing for an interview, just like for a speaking engagement, I ponder what important lessons I've learned that would be valuable for the audience and think through how to make important messages easy to remember. Acronyms are good memory hooks, so I use those when possible, such as "LIFE" to remember the four symptoms of a woman's heart attack and "HEART" for the five simple steps to a healthy heart.

Alliteration also helps, so a favorite that is easy for audiences to remember is "Stress Hijacks Healthy Habits." These make great takeaways that readers and listeners not only remember, but easily share with others. Of course, for radio and TV, it helps to be so comfortable with your sound bites that they just roll off your tongue, especially tongue-twisters, as you don't want to mess up with a live audience.

Lorri: When you’ve been interviewed on TV, radio and for magazine articles, do you feel journalists have been fair?

Mellanie: Yes, they have all been professionals. Of course, when you are coming from a place of giving, with no specific agenda other than to convey information, journalists will usually be quite fair. While it's nice to have a plug for my book, giving the audience life-saving information is what the interview is really about; if they mention my book, which they almost always do, then that's gravy. If you give, true professionals give back.

While journalists have been fair, I can't say the same for bloggers, who usually aren't professional journalists like you. Some are professional, others are not. For some, anything goes, whether true or not. Misguided bloggers can post false and defamatory comments about you, and you have little or no recourse.

For example, one physician who blogs read a press release from our web developer mentioning their work on our non-profit atrial fibrillation patient resource, This physician leveled the completely false accusation in his blog that no patient could possibly understand medical procedures, and thus our site must have been written by the marketing department of a medical device company to skirt current regulations and that I was a pawn of this company. Nothing could be further from the truth – as an informed patient, I researched and wrote every word myself. Professional journalists would have checked their assumptions, but there are no rules for bloggers, so this one posted first, then called, and never admitted to me that he had blogged and leveled these charges. Thank goodness for Google News Alerts for the heads up. I commented at his blog to set the record straight, and he fired back with additional false accusations, which I refuted. He will never admit the mistake, nor apologize for the grief he has caused.

Lorri: What lessons have you learned?

There are many, but here are some of the top ones:

Some national media, such as the women's magazines, can be very difficult to get the attention of, but once you get that big national magazine story, the others are much easier to get. Better Homes and Gardens' Heart-Healthy Living magazine recently featured my story. It included my two brushes with death from heart disease and a near-stroke, my mission to save others from a similar fate, my recent surgery to cure my atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat), and the non-profit atrial fibrillation patient site we recently launched. Now, more national magazines are interviewing me, and that's yielding more calls for speaking engagements. Patience and persistence pay off.

Press releases aren't just for the media anymore. They now serve a general Internet audience as consumers and companies follow them, too, and they turn up in search results. Press releases can yield more attention and web site visitors than some media coverage does.

Sometimes we get impatient to get certain "big" media, and even obsess over it, but I believe that if you build a platform and do good work, the media will come to you. Of course, you have to help it along at the same time by being a good resource and partner with them.

Lorri: What advice would you give others?

Mellanie: Some of these I've said already, but they bear repeating.

Go the extra mile and leverage every opportunity to help the media create awesome stories, including connecting reporters with others that can fill out the story. They will remember you and you may get extra coverage. For example, when the national magazine reporter called for a quote and some information for a sidebar to his story about what can go wrong with the heart, we spent a long time discussing my story, and he found my two heart issues compelling. We subsequently spent a couple of hours with my heart surgeons and did lots of back-and-forth e-mails to answer additional questions and clarify details. I also did two photo shoots and last minute fact-checking. All in all, that was a lot of time invested. Was it worth it? You bet. What started as a small sidebar to a story ended up as a four page feature spread in a national magazine, and I've developed a relationship with the team that puts the magazine together and can take them future ideas.

Be a good resource and build relationships because you never know where your contacts will end up. Focus on helping others, not yourself. Press releases are cheap and effective publicity, especially on the Internet.

Lorri: Do you think media coverage is helping get the word out about women’s heart disease?

Mellanie: Yes, it definitely is. We have come a long way in helping women know that heart disease is the #1 killer of women and that stroke is #3. What's important now is helping women and men take actionable steps to prevent heart disease and stroke and to lead a healthier life.

In addition to continuing to talk about women and heart disease, my new passion is raising awareness of atrial fibrillation, the most common irregular heartbeat. Fortunately I have had surgery to cure this devastating, and sometimes deadly, condition, but I can't just stand on the sidelines and watch others suffer. We've created a non-profit web site for atrial fibrillation patients,, to provide the help they need to control their condition. Doctors, unfortunately, often underestimate the impact of atrial fibrillation on patients' lives, so we're trying to change that as well.

Lorri: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Mellanie: I think that being effective at getting the word out about what you do requires being patient and persistent, focusing on relationships with the media, and remembering that it's not about you, it's about others!

Thanks, Lorri, for the opportunity to share what I've learned in my media journey.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Soundbites Aren't Just for Newsmakers

The television generation has morphed into the Internet generation which is quickly transitioning to the Text generation. Today, most adults speak in soundbites. Tomorrow, we may all be speaking in letters!

Until we get there, though, we all use shorthand versions of old sayings, truisms, proverbs, quotes that sum up the situation and explain what's going on. We use these cliches to encourage, to motivate and to help us out when we don't have other words.

Here are a few examples I've heard in conversation recently:

Woman: It's been a rough few months. My husband is in the hospital for kidney stones, my best friend from college died and our air conditioner broke.

Man responding: Well, they say bad things happen in three's, so you've gotten it all out of the way.

Friend: I just can't understand why I'm putting on weight. I exercise five days a week and eat better than most people I know.

Friend responding: I hate to tell you this, but we're not spring chickens anymore.


Man: I'm not sure we should take that route.

Woman: What have we got to lose?


Sometimes the words don't come, and we feel awkward. If that happens to you, often it works to admit the truth, "I just don't what to say."

What are the moments in your life that you need soundbites for? Let me know--I'd love to help you!

Friday, August 3, 2007


News coverage becomes less controversial when our nation experiences a tragedy. As viewers, readers or listeners, we become hungry for details and focus less on a reporter's perceived bias, but instead, what we can learn about the breaking news incident.

In the Minneapolis bridge collapse and the Phoenix helicopter crashes, did your mind rush to think of everyone you know in Minnesota and Arizona? In our newsroom, we all asked each other if we knew the photographers who died when the two news choppers collided. Broadcasting is a small fraternity, where friends move often from market to market.

When news becomes personal, the what, when, where, why and how fade away, and it's all about the who. I encourage my colleagues in the press to remember that when they cover the tragedies of others. And for those of you who like sensational/entertainment/tabloid-style news better than more factual coverage, stop and think about how you'd like to be on the camera end of those reports.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

CNN-YouTube Debate

I loved the CNN-You Tube Democratic Debate last night. It was so cool to see what's on the minds of Americans across the country. The technology worked seamlessly, and Anderson Cooper did a decent job.

You might ask, "Lorri, is this the end of professional reporters?" Nah. Here's why: I bet those of you who didn't agree with the You Tube questioners' lifestyles, stances, or opinions didn't like the idea of them getting a forum in the debate.

Reporters who can ask questions without emotions tied to the queries or the responses are still in demand. But if this new technology gets Americans more involved in the political process, hey, I'll let go of a question or two.

The GOP CNN-You Tube debate is September 17th. I can't wait.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Promised Answers

How did you do on the list of items I gave you June 21? Did you wonder why you shouldn't say these phrases to people interviewing you?

Today, some explanation...

1. "No comment."

If you asked your spouse, boss or child an important question and they answered, "No comment," wouldn't you be frustrated? Sure, you would, but that's not the real reason to avoid this phrase with journalists. The main reason is it makes you look evasive, guilty or clueless.

2. “Are we rolling yet?”

Assume the cameras are rolling the moment a photographer steps onto your property.

3. “Can I see the story before it airs?”

Asking this offends reporters, because it suggests you do not trust them to write a fair and balanced story. You can ask, "May I review my quotes before the story prints?"

4. “When you're done filming...”

TV reporters (unless they're high-dollar documentarians) haven't filmed since the early 1980's. We "tape" or "record" now.

5. "Uh" or "You know"

Get rid of verbal fillers. They're distracting. One way to eliminate these from your speech is to participate in Toastmasters.

6. "Like I said earlier..."

TV reporters are looking for soundbites six to ten seconds long. This phrase will get edited.

7. "Can I start over?"

This makes you look like an amateur, but most producers or journalists will let you start again.

8. "That was off the record."

The rule of the game is that you must say, "off the record" before you give the information.

9. "Get me a copy of the raw footage."

Most outlets will not give you raw footage. But you can ask politely for a copy of the piece. It helps if you have your own DVD for copying purposes. And some organizations charge a small amount for dubs.

By the way, newsmakers have asked or said every one of these phrases to me--I didn't make them up!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mind Your Manners

I don't think it's an accident that we featured an etiquette expert today on our radio show, and then a public relations practitioner cornered me on the phone. Having had a reminder about manners, I didn't want to be rude to the fellow. But I realized it was his behavior that has so offended me in the past that I don't like to work with him... and thus, I seldom schedule the guests he's pitching.

Lesson #1: If your PR agency isn't booking as many appearances as you'd like, maybe it's not you or your topic, maybe it's the agency.

Lesson #2: Be polite. Use nice phone etiquette. That means listening until the other person is finished talking.

Manners matter. No one likes to be badgered. One of the complaints I get about my profession is that reporters are pushy and rude. Let's make a deal. I won't be rude if you won't either.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The National Speakers Association

As professionals, we need to stay sharp and abreast of changes in our industries. And sometimes, we just need inspiration to think creatively, boost our attitudes and network with the best in our fields. That's what the National Speakers Assocation annual convention does for me.

I'll be at the event the next few days, soaking it all in. If you have ever thought about being a professional speaker, plan to attend next year. And go ahead and get involved in your local chapter--it will really cut your learning curve. People speak to publicize their other business interests, to train, to motivate, to sell. But if you want to make a living at speaking, you've got to know that there's a lot more than just getting up and talking.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Interview with Dianna Booher, Author and Speaker

Dianna Booher is not only a highly-regarded speaker whose company trains all over the globe, she's published 43 books! For a list of all the news interviews she's done and the excellent way she provides ideas for the media, check out the newsroom section of her website. No one does it better. So, I asked this Certified Speaking Professional to share her strategies.

SC: Dianna, why is it important for authors to seek media attention?

DB: Most authors don’t have direct access to enough readers to put them on a bestsellers list without help from the media. The media opens the door to a bigger audience. Media means leverage. But publicity in and of itself doesn’t necessarily translate to book sales or speaking engagements. The key is getting the RIGHT kind of publicity to reach the appropriate audience for your book or speech. And then the real payoff comes in knowing what to do with that publicity once you get it—in knowing how to leverage the publicity to dollars.

SC: You’ve been very successful in getting in lots of different publications and appearing on national news programs. To what do you attribute your positive publicity?

DB: A broad topic of universal appeal. Communication is my area of expertise, and everybody has to communicate well. As far as getting on national news programs, that can also be explained fairly easily: There’s always some politician, pro athlete, or rock star putting his or her foot in the old mouth! Some talk-show hosts want communication experts for their analysis of how those with foot-in-mouth disease can clean up the mess—apologize, give the bad news, respond graciously, or “set the record straight” with a clean slate.

SC: Your new book deals in part with that topic. In terms of publicity, what steps are you taking this time around that you may not have done on your first or second book?

DB: The Voice of Authority: 10 Communication Strategies Every Leader Needs to Know was just released by McGraw-Hill. One thing that I’ve done differently with this book is to think more about positioning BEFORE it came out. Let me explain: An earlier book that I did, which I’m often told has become a classic in the field, was Communicate with Confidence, also by McGraw-Hill. With that book, I aimed at every business professional and evidently hit the middle of the marketplace. It has sold exceptionally well—but just by accident, not through any great marketing or positioning plan. But with Voice of Authority, the publisher has positioned it “one level above” every professional. That is, they still wanted the book to present practical tips, but for leaders in an organization—managers, team leaders, and so forth. So that meant cover design, sales copy, PR, everything had to be different to position the book for that reader.

SC: Have you had any interviews that didn’t go so well? What did you learn?

DB: The first time I was on a national talk show—Good Morning America—I was shocked to learn the morning I arrived in the studio that they didn’t intend to show the book jacket on the screen. They were interviewing me on tips from the book—Get a Life: How to Find Time for the Really Important Things in Life Without Sacrificing Your Career. So I just assumed they’d show the book jacket and flash the title on the screen under my name. Not so. When I said something about that, the segment producer said, “We’re not planning to.” I said, “What do you mean—you’re not planning to?” It never entered my mind that they didn’t intend to show the book. She responded, “Your publicist didn’t make that a condition of your doing the show. Are you saying you won’t go on?” I was floored. I had no idea that was all decided beforehand and should be part of the discussion with the booking agent. I assumed it was all just a “given.” But not anymore! I assume nothing.

SC: That's a good lesson for us all to take to heart. Tell us about the most embarrassing/funniest/memorable thing that’s happened to you.

DB: The most difficult interview I remember doing was a international one—I think the radio station was one from the Bahamas or Jamaica. My publisher had placed an ad in Radio and TV Report, and a producer called in from that ad and scheduled the segment. We didn’t check out the show very well other than to check the Internet and discover that it was a large station. The topic was the communication gap between men and women. It was one of those morning talk shows with two hosts in a playful mood. The first question or two went okay, but soon things started to get suggestive. Their questions started to focus on me personally—my photo on the website. That sort of thing. When I tried to bring things back to a more business-like discussion, one of the hosts began to attack me for being “uptight” and asking “why was I so uncomfortable with my sexuality” and it got worse from there. I just hung up. And then five minutes later, I get a call on my home phone number from this guy, trying to further the very vulgar, suggestive discussion. (They had my home phone number as a back-up number in case of technical difficulties on this early-morning call before office hours.) He continued to harass me at home. Long story a little shorter, I called the PR firm to let them know about this station so they could put this station on their “do not schedule” list.

SC: I applaud you for hanging up. On the other hand, a step you take that endears you to reporters is that you write thank you notes. How important is it to establish a relationship with journalists?

DB: Extremely important. The same journalists call me book after book to do interviews because of a relationship. And they call for quotes, tips, or comments when they’re assigned stories because my name is top of mind on the topic of communication. Anything extra that you can do to stand out makes a huge difference.

SC: Do you use different strategies for newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and Internet coverage?

DB: Yes and no. The fundamentals are the same: Build relationships. Keep your name top of mind. Keep good records. Stay in touch. Help them do their job. Make it easy for them to use your stuff. But you do approach them differently when you have a new book. For example, the lead time when scheduling interviews is different with each type. The method of reaching each is different. The frequency of contact for each is different. What they want to see is different.

SC: Do you practice to develop good sound bites?

DB: Again, the answer is yes and no. Yes, in the sense that I’ve been practicing all my professional life as a speaker. So I practice delivery every week as I deliver speeches and workshops. But no, I don’t practice doing interview sound bites. What I DO to prepare, however, is to pull together sound bites on paper. I always have my assistant to ask the reporter what the interview will cover so that I can pull my thoughts together before the actual interview.

And when a new book comes out, I actually go through the book and pull out sound bites or key points that I want to make in each interview and write those on cards, ready to deliver at every opportunity.

SC: What advice would you give to people to leverage a little media coverage into bigger markets?

DB: Always let your clients know where you’ve been covered, reviewed, interviewed, featured. Even if they didn’t read it or see it directly, they’ll be impressed just to KNOW or HEAR that you were featured in your industry’s top journal. Then when you step up to appear on Fox & Friends newscast or CNN’s Larry King Live about X or Y or get interviewed by Harvard Business Review or Investor’s Business Daily about Z, let clients know. Second-hand, pass-on announcements about such coverage get almost the same bang for the buck as the first time around.

SC: Sometimes you use press releases to establish yourself as an expert. You’re not necessarily selling a book, but definitely building credibility and reputation.

DB: We do this about twice a year for big events—when we complete major surveys or research surveys. Another thing that warrants a press release is when we sign global, enterprise-wide contracts with training clients for our communication courses. Sometimes our clients do it for us—that’s the very best. For example, when Lockheed Martin won the huge $288 billion Joint Strike Fighter contract with the Department of Defense, the company sent out a press release and mentioned us as the training firm who coached the senior executives in giving briefings. That’s nice.

SC: You do a great job of explaining the media in your Get Your Book Published workshop that you hold once or twice a year. How essential is it that authors think of the media angle as they begin a book?

DB: Considering the media and marketing angles from the get-go is paramount. In fact, you will absolutely not sell a book today if your book proposal does not include an exceptionally strong marketing and media section. Selling books is all about the author’s platform. That’s why in Get Your Book Published we spend a great deal of time making sure would-be and experienced authors understand how to convey to agents and editors what they plan to do to market their books and get media attention. The media opens the door to everything else.
SC: Dianna, thanks so much for your wisdom and insight! I'd like to encourage everyone to sign up for your monthly Communication Tip and to read your blog. We'll also be looking for you on TV!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

State of TV News

"Increasingly, people find local TV news repetitive and not nutritious." - Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, comments to Gail Shister at the Philadelphia Inquirer

How is your local TV news? Do you get the who, what, where, why and how of what is going on in your community or do you get gossip and rehashed press releases? Complain to your stations if you're tired of repetitive, idiotic news. News Directors are notorious for paying attention to ratings and focus groups, so real, live feedback matters. You can make a difference.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dumb Things to Say When You're Being Interviewed

  • "No comment."
  • “Are we rolling yet?”
    “Can I see the story before it airs?”
  • “When you're done filming...”
  • "Uh"
  • "You know"
  • "Like I said earlier..."
  • "Can I start over?"
  • "That was off the record."
  • "Get me a copy of the raw footage."

Stay tuned for a future blog that explains why these are bozo comments. Or schedule a free media audit with me!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Reality or Really Silly?

Making News: Texas Style is a new reality show on an obscure channel. My husband and I love it, even though the production values could be better. We love it because we have lived small town television in Texas.

But if you happen to catch an episode in order to better understand behind-the-scenes news operations, please know that some of the drama is contrived and exaggerated. For instance, a reporter loses her cool because a truck honks at her during a live shot. If she gets this upset in real life, she needs to get a real life.

Learning From the Politicians

Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. I say "pleasure" because it's always a thrill to interview someone who is forthright, doesn't dodge questions, and is willing to have a little fun in the process. For instance, Governor Huckabee performed a few of his impressions before we tackled more serious topics.

I also asked the candidate about his 100-pound weight loss. He said he learned to avoid meals you get through a car window. He could have said, "Doctors told me to stay away from fast food." But his answer was more interesting.

When I complimented him on doing well in the presidential debates, he didn't boast, nor was he demure. Instead, he said, "It's been a good forum for me."

When we got to issues like the war, he explained his stance in a matter of fact way without condescension or obfuscating jargon.

No matter your political allegiance or presidential choice, you can learn from all soundbite kings. So, keep your eye on candidate Huckabee. Even if you don't like his platform, you might enjoy his impressions.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Grass Roots Publicity

Recently, a friend asked about press releases. She wanted to know whether spending a few hundred dollars to use a wire service to disseminate her release was a good investment. The bottom line answer is, "It depends."

I encouraged her, if she had the time, to create her own grass roots service. The way to do this: send the press release personally to all the journalists with whom she's developed a relationship. It's better to put the release in the body of an e-mail--many reporters won't open an unsolicited attachment. As a journalist, I'm much more likely to open the e-mail of someone who's a respected source than just consider a press release randomly sent by a service. In fact, unless the subject line is compelling, I'll delete the e-mail from a service without even looking at the release.

However, on a slow news day, news professionals are eager to consider every story idea. Reporters will look at trends, issues and more to see if they can combine a couple of newsmakers to come up with a unique report.

So try it both ways and see what kind of response you get.

Bonus Tip: Always post your press releases to your website's "pressroom." Reporters will read them when they're researching.

Friday, June 8, 2007


Recently, a client I was coaching for a radio interview later that afternoon had dropped her young daughter off at a daycare so that the little one would not make any background noise during the interview.

"That's smart!" I told the client.

Too bad not all of the people I interview on my radio show are that smart. It happened again this week. A woman was doing a great job as a guest. She was animated, knowledgeable and interacted well with the callers. Then, we heard a cacophony of pots and pans. On-air talent is taught to acknowledge something that loud, so the listeners won't be alarmed or distracted. My co-host said, "Are you cooking breakfast?" The guest replied, "You heard that?" You think that would've been clue enough for her to stop and focus on the radio show. But then we heard water running.

Please, if you are granted the gift of airtime, do not squander it by getting preoccupied by household chores. In the 15 months I've been hosting a talk show, we've heard guests get email, type on a keyboard, cook bacon, let the dog out and have their cell phone ring.

Turn off the other phones, turn down the computer volume, put the dog outside where we can't hear it bark, and be smart like my client--think of the little ones and the little details that can make a big difference.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Interview with Author Peggy Collins, Part Two

Author and speaker Peggy Collins has been reaching out to the media about her ground-breaking new book, Help is NOT a Four-Letter Word. In Part Two of her interview, she shares tips about publicity.

Soundbite Coach (SC): Peggy, you have booked many interviews yourself and also hired a publicist. Which route do you recommend?

Peggy Collins (PC): Functioning as your own publicist is a full time job. If one has the time, I think it’s fun and rewarding. We authors can build a rapport with that producer that someone one-removed from the product just can’t do. I also have a sales and marketing background so it’s doing what I’ve always done. Many have trouble selling and a publicist is the perfect answer.
After a month of being my own publicist, I realized how much time it was going to take away from marketing my speaking, so I made the decision to hire a publicist and still keep my hand in, lining up whatever I can.

I had sound advice from a friend who had employed this particular PR firm and it’s a wonderful choice. The staff is doing a great job.

SC: What is the best way to work with a publicist?

PC: The publicists will lay out a strategy based on information you provide on their questionnaire. The best way I’ve found to support the publicist to accomplish that strategy is communication, communication, communication!

If I’m doing anything to line up an interview, I let her know up front and keep her advised so we don’t double-book. Once a week, I send a list of names that I’ve sent books to, based on her requests. That way, she’ll know when to follow-up. If an interviewer says he or she would like to have me back on, I let the publicist know so she can follow-up. If I see an opportunity for a market we’re not pursuing, I brainstorm with her via email. If I’m given an option to do something a little unusual-like a midnight talk show in studio in NY, I always ask her advice.
When specialized phone lists are rolled out that fit my niche, I have purchased one and we have split it up for coverage.

SC: You were good about calling anyone you knew who might have a relationship with a reporter or show host. What kind of results did you get?

PC: As always, networking is the best tool to creating instant rapport with a reporter or talk show host because you’re borrowing someone’s credibility to connect with that person. I’ve found it the very best way to get booked.

SC: What advice do you have for other authors and speakers?

PC: Lots of it! Here goes:

· Get started early in planning your publicity. I didn’t know that and it would have saved me so much “learning curve time.” There are many things you can do prior to the publishing date that your publisher may never tell you.
· Start saving or setting up a rather large budget (or as much as you can afford) because every expert out there has bundled knowledge and it has a price tag on it. I utilized many of these types of packages and teleseminars to “hit the ground running.” It’s like building a home. It’s always going to cost more than you think and often success is tied to how much money you’re willing to spend.
· You’ll also need a book-buying budget although a national publisher will sell to you at a discount. You’ll be sending out a large number of books to prospective interviews and interested people, and you’ll have mailing expense as well.
· Figure out who you can get to write reviews prior to publication.
· Decide if you’re going to use a PR firm or do your own and network to choose the right fit.
· Ask yourself: What do you want to accomplish? National recognition? Local? All important in laying out a plan and thinking it through before you are faced with having to do it.
· Radio interviews - print media – TV - Virtual Author Tours - booksignings - teleseminars - webinars - feeding articles to the Internet - being utilized as an expert, having a blog - writing for other blogs - doing an Amazon blitz - signing up on all the search engines - all are tactics that you need to become knowledgeable about prior to launching a PR campaign.
· What specialized lists can you buy that will help direct your campaign?
· What sites represent your niche? Think about writing an article or advertising on that site. · Every interaction is an opportunity to get the word out there. Look at emails coming to you. How can you capitalize by letting that person know about your book?
· Whether you’re picking up your cleaning or eating at a restaurant, carry marketing pieces to strike up a conversation. I’ve used magnets with my book title on them.

SC: Peggy, that is such great advice. Thanks so much for teaching the world to ask for help and for giving us your help!

Interview with Author Peggy Collins, Part One

My friend Peggy Collins is an expert on networking, sales and stress. She has been a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant since 1987.

She has a terrific new book out titled, Help is NOT a Four-Letter Word. I recommend it to you, especially if you've ever felt you couldn't or shouldn't ask for help. As Peggy points out in her media interviews, "Independence is a great quality--one Americans cherish. But it can be taken to the extreme."

Peggy has been busy with radio stations, magazine writers and more for this important book. So I asked her to share some of her experiences on the publicity tour. She provided these answers from her home in Hendersonville, North Carolina.

Soundbite Coach (SC): Peggy, tell us about the interviews you've had so far.

Peggy Collins (PC): I’ve done 17 radio interviews and many more are coming up. The Internet, Sirius, regular AM and FM, Podcasts - there are radio shows everywhere. This is by far the best way for me to get the word out there – geographically – sitting in my office.

I finally did one TV interview, so now I’m excited about the prospect of doing more. It was interesting how it happened. I called WLOS, our ABC affiliate in nearby Asheville and asked the assignments editor if he’d be willing to give me some TV pointers if I came to the station. He agreed immediately and spent 45 minutes with me on the set, explaining the interviewing process. He really took the anxiety out of it for me. As I left, he suggested I leave one of my books with him for the noon-news anchor, and the rest is history, except to say, that I went to my interview armed with Krispy Cremes, his favorite!

Although I’ve done four booksignings, it didn’t take long to realize that that’s not where its at! Rather than wait for a few people to come to me, I’d rather spend those valuable hours participating in something that drives readers into book stores in larger numbers, like radio interviews.

Print media has picked up steam. A wonderful freelance writer did a very large article for our local The Hendersonville Times News. A dear friend networked me to a writer on The Methodist Reporter who called, interviewed me and wrote a marvelous, long article on the book from a Christan perspective. McGraw Hill’s publicist landed an interview for me with Newsday, the Staten Island newspaper with a circulation of 450,000. I emailed a magazine in Australia suggesting that because I know they have this extreme self-sufficiency problem, they write an article on the book, and it’s in the works as I write, along with several others.

SC: What have you learned about dealing with the news media?

PC: I’ve never met a nicer group of people than those affiliated with radio, TV and print media. They are helpful and supportive. On many occasions when I have cold-called radio stations, they will let me know they don’t do author interviews but will suggest another station and will often give me a producer's name there.

I’ve treated them like I have always treated a prospective client – sharing the benefits to their listeners, following up and sticking to the tight schedules by being there or on the phone on time! And I always follow up with a thank you note or email to let them know how much I appreciate their helping me get the word out there.
As a result, I’ve had several book me again for a return interview, and it’s like they’re old friends.

SC: That's smart, Peggy. We journalists and talk show hosts rarely get thank you notes, so you really distinguish yourself when you do that. What have you learned about interviewing?

PC: You clearly told me to decide what major points I wanted to make and bring the conversation back to those critical points. I have worked on doing that and do it better on some occasions than I do others.

After I’ve finished an interview, I debrief with myself to decide what went well and what I could have expanded on. I find that it takes pre-work to get ready for the different approaches to my subject. Since I’m talking about a self-defeating behavior where we are too self-sufficient, I’ve been called on to apply that concept to: supermoms – parenting - seniors - college kids, professional women, dads, and a host of other specialties.

Because I’m a professional speaker, I really thought I would pick it up quickly, but radio and TV interviews are quite different from speaking. On the radio, of course, you see no one so the feedback you’re getting is from the host, who is really in control of the interview.

The more I do, the more comfortable I’ve become with the process, and as a result, I know I come across more relaxed and fun.

SC: You’ve been on live radio and TV. Is there advice about going live you can share?

PC: Talk as though you’re talking to one special person. Prepare what you’ll answer to any possible questions so that there aren’t "ums" or hesitation.

SC: Has anything embarrassing or funny happened during an interview?

PC: Nothing embarrassing or funny has happened, but I had a host cough through the entire interview last week. I felt so sorry for him, but there was nothing to do but talk over the cough and keep going. It was a taped interview, so I really wonder if they’ll air that one.

SC: Oh, I feel sorry for that host, too. I've been there. That reminds me of a tip for you, Peggy, and others who may have allergies or a cough. Have a cup of warm water or tea close by. It can soothe your throat enough to get you through a spell.

Peggy, you had something exciting happen when a wire service picked up an article about Help. Tell us about that.

PC: Pat Burson with Newsday, the Staten Island newspaper I talked about earlier, interviewed me for a large article about my book. We talked three or four times and became phone-friends. She did a marvelous job, interviewing a psychologist and two “model Self-Sufficients.” Being a novice to all of this, I was delighted to find that the story went out on the wire and has been picked up by several news papers across the country including the Ft. Wayne and Minneapolis papers. I can’t recommend “google alerts” strongly enough when you’re tracking progress.

SC: Peggy, you have so many other good recommendations for those wanting to work with the news media. We'll get to those in Part 2!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Advantages of Going Live

From time to time, you may want to insist on a live interview. The reporter may not meet your demand, but here are a couple of reasons to ask for a live report, especially in a crisis situation.

1. Your interview cannot be edited.

Even the most ethical journalists may lose some of the context when they have to choose soundbites by whittling down a 30-minute interview to a one-minute-thirty-second report. Some big name newsmakers will only respond in a live format.

2. You get more face time, so people see you as you are.

With an edited report, video--or "b-roll"--covers up most of the story. While video can roll during a live interview, it's typically not as much.

There are disadvantages to going live, too. You may not look and sound that good. You can go blank. Every verbal filler (um, er, uh, you know, like) will stay in. You could sweat. You could repeat yourself. You could make a grammatical mistake. While those things happen in a taped interview, editors, for the sake of time, will sometimes edit out flaws.

Monday, June 4, 2007

A Quotation for When You Need a Flotation

If you're ever stuck for a soundbite, have a few quotes in your back pocket to reel off to reporters. Some of these may make reporters laugh and buy you some time to think of a more appropriate response.

"Frank and explicit - that is the right line to take when you wish to conceal your own mind and confuse the minds of others."
-Benjamin Disraeli

"If you can't convince them, confuse them."
-Harry S. Truman

"Rest assured, there'll never be a shortage of Bozos on television."
- Dan Rather, lamenting the end of WGN-TV's "Bozo"

"News is what somebody somewhere doesn't want you to know. All the
rest is advertising."
-Dan Rather

"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise,
we don't believe in it at all."
-Noam Chomsky

"A people which is able to say everything becomes able to do
-Napoleon Bonaparte

Thursday, May 31, 2007

National News Observations

Fewer of us are watching the evening newscasts. And the industry is buzzing because Charles Gibson has pulled into first place without all the hype and publicity that heralded Katie Couric's ascension to CBS.

Personally, I tend to watch ABC because our local affiliate's lead in newscast is so strong, and while I'm multi-tasking, I don't take time to go change the channel. But I'm a minority--more people are getting their news from the Internet, cable, or shows that spoof current events.

Charles Gibson did not want to lead the newscast with Jerry Falwell's death a couple of weeks ago. But he devoted lots of time tonight to the new Billy Graham Library. I'm a Billy Graham fan, so I'm not complaining. It just surprised me that Charles was so gentle. He glossed over or did not mention controversies that have followed the career of America's Pastor.

From a soundbite point of view, there are a couple of ways to look at this. If you get to be 88, revered as much as Graham, and someone opens a library for you, you might expect reporters to go easy on you.

Or, maybe national news anchors just like to report features now and then.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Quotes about Journalism

For your enjoyment...

"A journalist is a reporter out of a job." --Mark Twain

"I have spent half my life trying to get away from journalism, but I am still mired in it--a low trade and a habit worse than heroin, a strange seedy world full of misfits and drunkards and failures." --Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

"If a person is not talented enough to be a novelist, not smart enough to be a lawyer, and his hands are too shaky to perform operations, he becomes a journalist." --Norman Mailer

"[Journalism] is full of lying, cheating, drunken, cocaine-sniffing, unethical people. It's a wonderful profession." --Piers Morgan, Daily Mirror

"The way I had it is all gone now. The bars are gone, the drinkers, gone. There remain the smartest, healthiest newspeople in the history of the business. And they are so boring that they kill the business right in front of you." --Jimmy Breslin, columnist, 1996

Monday, May 28, 2007


Holidays like today are typically slow news days. So they're good days to be pro-active and pitch your story ideas. For a federal holiday that falls on a Monday, like Memorial Day, President's Day or Labor Day, you might even want to pitch your story to assignment editors (the title you ask for at TV and radio stations) or the assignments desk (the title for newspapers) on the Friday before.

If you have a tie-in to the holiday itself, so much the better. For instance, maybe you have an employee who just returned from Iraq and your company is going to throw a party for him or her today. Or for July 4th, find out if any of your organization's members are getting their citizenship.

Reporters love "feel-good" stories at these times of the year. There's a silver lining: they can do the piece on you, meet their deadline and get home in time for the cookout.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Do You Have a Media Policy?

Media policies can guide your organization and its members or employees to know what to do when a reporter calls.

Here is a simple template that you can adapt for your needs.

(Name of organization) wants to inform reporters of all newsworthy events. Our policy is one of openness. To control rumors or premature information that may unfairly affect our employees, customers, or revenues--and to ensure reporters get the most accurate information, as well as access to the most appropriate sources--we require that journalists contact our (title of person who serves as spokesperson) for any media inquiries.

Employees are asked to share this policy if they receive calls or messages from the news media. Please direct reporters and photographers to our (title of person who serves as spokesperson or media relations director). You can reach (him/her) at (phone numbers--include cell) or by e-mail at (e-mail address.)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Whether to Grant an On-Camera Interview

The reporter was hounding my friend to do an on-camera interview on a sensitive topic. My friend refused. The reporter was sweet-talking, but my friend felt like his job would be in jeopardy if he said something he shouldn't have.

The reporter then played hard ball. But my friend held firm, despite the reporter's raised voice and harsh words. In the end, the reporter used what my friend had been offering all along: a written statement.

When do you refuse to go on camera?

Rarely. Refusing to go on camera makes you look wimpy, lazy, guilty, controlled by lawyers or all of the above. But in my friend's case, he probably made the right decision for his organization and controlled this message. I say "probably" because the reporter will remember. So when it comes to a story that my friend is pitching and the reporter has a choice of two equally compelling stories to cover that day, he could retaliate and choose the other story.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Interview with Edward Leigh, Speaker

Edward Leigh is a keynote speaker and seminar leader who's had many media experiences! Eddie focuses on creating positive workplace and learning environments. He presents high-energy and informative programs to a wide variety of groups, including corporations, associations, government organizations, hospitals, schools and universities. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Health Education.

He appears on many national television shows, including interviews on MSNBC News and the Today show, where Katie Couric interviewed him. He can now also be called “Reality TV Star” after his appearance on the Discovery Health Channel show, Mystery Diagnosis. The program is repeated on the “regular” Discovery Channel. He writes articles for several national publications, including Coping, Wellness Perspectives and The Association Management Magazine. He is also a monthly columnist for Speaker Magazine. He has been written about in hundreds of local and regional magazines and newspapers. Multiple online publications also feature stories on his work.

LA: Eddie, you have had high-profile national media appearances. What is it like to be interviewed by Katie Couric?

EL: I could see why Katie is in the top of her profession. She made me feel at ease. We actually met three times during my visit to the NBC studio. When I first arrived at the NBC Studio a Page was assigned to act as my guide. The Page first took me on the elevator. As soon as we got to the destination floor, the elevator doors opened, and there was Katie waiting to get in the elevator. She smiled at me and said she looked forward to our interview. I never asked how she knew it was me -- I assume she recognized me from all the photos I sent to NBC. (In preparation for my interview, they asked me to send pictures of myself.) We then met again during preparation for the taping. Our first real conversation was touching -- she discussed her late husband, Jay. She mentioned that her husband was the same age as I was when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. After the interview, I took pictures with her. I then went to the Green Room, where I met other Today show guests, including Mayor Ed Koch and Governor Mario Cuomo. They asked for presentation skills tips! Katie walked by the Green Room and saw me; she then came in and said, "Great Job, Eddie!"

LA: That had to make you feel good! There are a lot of us who would like to be on a national morning news program. How did you get considered for the show?

EL: After I was diagnosed with colon cancer in August 1999, I joined the organization, the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA). I also joined a colon cancer discussion group via the website, Association of Cancer Online Resources. I became active with both CCA and the discussion group; they became very familiar with my story -- a young guy with colon cancer. About 90 percent of colon cancer cases are in people 50 and over. However, that still leaves ten percent under 50, which translates into about 13,000 people! I was 41 years old at the time of my diagnosis. In January 2000, the Today show contacted CCA and producers said they were planning a week-long series on colon cancer called, “Confronting Colon Cancer.” They wanted to dispel the myth that only older people get colon cancer. They asked CCA if they knew of any young people with colon cancer that would come across well on TV. The CCA folks mentioned, "Eddie is a young colon cancer survivor, and he’s a professional speaker.”

The Today show producer called me and we chatted for an hour. She thought I would be a great guest, but she said Katie was the ultimate decision maker. The producer then asked me to send over information about myself. I sent the information. A week later, the producer called and said, "Katie wants you in New York City next week."

LA: How did national media exposure help your speaking business?

EL: I have to say that the phone did not immediately start ringing off the hook after my appearance on Today. What I did was leverage the opportunity to boost my career. The appearance gave me credibility in that people began to think, “If Katie wanted to chat with him, he must have something interesting to say!" I mentioned the appearance on my website and in all my promo materials. Overall, the experience did get me more bookings based on how I was able to use the appearance to promote my work. I would not want people to think that all they need to do is appear on a national show and hundreds of bookings will pour in. Rather, it's how we use that experience to promote our work.

For instance, before my recent appearance on the Discovery Health Channel, I sent postcards to clients, prospects and speakers bureaus.

LA: Eddie, I've interviewed you before, and to me, you come across as a nice guy who knows what he’s talking about. Is there something you do to convey such a genuine, authentic persona?

EL: I am the same person on and off the platform. To put it simply, I am real. Unfortunately, I have heard speakers who were wonderful on the platform, but in person they were cold and aloof. I will never forget one speaker who I thought was incredible – just knocked my socks off! After his speech, I waited to meet him. He was not very nice; he hardly acknowledged me. People like that are phonies. I lost all respect for him.

When it comes to “knowing what I am taking about,” I research my content very carefully. I have a resource for everything!

LA: In all your news interviews, what lessons have you learned? Is there anything you would do differently now?

EL: Once a reporter has interviewed you, stay in touch! I keep in touch with every reporter that has interviewed me. When I have an idea for a story, I call them. They remember me! My wife, Beth, and I produce fun holiday greeting cards, which have become legendary. All the reporters I have worked with over the years are sent a card.

I have also leaned you have to be assertive, but not pushy. If I simply just sent a fax or email without a follow up phone call, I would have very few media appearances. The follow up call is critical. Many times they will say to me, "I never got your email."

I made a blunder recently. I recently appeared on a Discovery Health Channel show, Mystery Diagnosis. I contacted two large Cleveland papers. They both did stories. Then I contacted the local NBC affiliate that I had become friendly with over the years. It didn't seem to have any interest in promoting my program. Then it hit me! I was stunned at this major error in judgment. Why would one station want to promote a competing station! Oops!

LA: What advice would you give others?

EL: For newspaper people -- focus on their readers. For radio people -- focus on their listeners. For TV people -- focus on their viewers. The problem with many people pitching the media is that they are too focused on themselves and their own agenda, not on the benefits to the audience. The media people want to please their audiences. We have to focus on audience benefits.Get media training! The media likes working with people who are media friendly. I have done several repeat interviews with the media because they knew I understood the process. For example, with TV interviews, I send questions ahead of time. This way, the TV reporters do not have to spend time coming up with questions. Also, I know what to wear – I would never walk in with a polka dot suit!

LA: That's right--no polka dots or stripes! Just for fun, tell us about your Pugs!

EL: My wife, Beth, and I have 16 dogs--15 Pugs and one English Toy Spaniel. We got our first Pug, Molly, in August 1999, and have been building our Pug family ever since. We even went to Brazil to pick up two Pugs! There is never a dull moment in our house! The media people love the Pugs. A newspaper photographer recently came to the house to get a picture for a story. He saw the Pugs and said, “They have to be in the picture.”

LA: Is there anything else you would like to add, dogs or media?

EL: People tend to think that it is solely your occupation that will get you media attention, however most of my media attention is indirectly related to my work as a professional speaker and seminar leader. In regard to my bout with colon cancer, most of the media attention is focused on 2 ½ years of being misdiagnosed. The Pugs also help with media attention! Even though the main focus is not my work, these media opportunities increase my visibility. What ever it takes to get my name out there!

For people reading this interview, think about what can bring you media attention, such as a fun hobby, interesting family story or dramatic personal situation.

LA: Eddie, I'm so grateful that you are a cancer survivor. Thanks for taking the time to help people create soundbite savvy experiences with the media.

To learn more about Eddie's work, sign up for the complimentary “Joy on the Job” electronic newsletter and receive the special report, “25 Ways to Energize Your Workplace.”

He also has a site for cancer patients and oncology professionals. Sign up for the complimentary “Trauma to Triumph” electronic newsletter and receive the special report, “25 Ways to Find Strength Throughout the Cancer Experience.”

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Interview with Dave Lieber, Newspaper Columnist

My friend Dave Lieber is The Watchdog columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He's also a dapper dresser. In this photo, his tie is a replica of the state flag of Texas. Dave has been a newspaperman for 30 years. He is founder of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Education Foundation, which awards scholarships to top college columnists each year. He was named the best columnist in the U.S. Southwest by the Press Club of Dallas and won the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award as the columnist who made the most positive contributions to his community for his founding of the Summer Santa charity.

Dave took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions that might help people get more newspaper coverage.

LA: Dave, if people think they have a newsworthy event or idea, how should they contact a newspaper?

DL: The best way now is through a personalized e-mail written to the correct person at the media outlet. Who is the correct person? Well, you have to do a little research. If your story pitch is about transportation, find out who the transportation reporter is and go to one of his or her stories on the Internet and look for his e-mail address. If you can't find it, one good way to search for e-mail addresses is to go to google and type in the name and then an ampersand and then the domain name of the newspaper. For example, in my case, "lieber @" would bring up my e-mail. You can also do a phone pitch, but most likely a reporter or editor won't return your call. But an e-mail is very easy to forward to an editor, print out, whatever. I get about 100 pitches a week, and the e-mails are the ones I pay most attention to.

LA: Reporters have a reputation for being snakes, vultures, jackals, etc. But you actually courted your wife by way of your newspaper column. Do all reporters have a soft spot?

DL: I'd say 99 percent of people in the media can be reached through their heart and emotion with the right pitch. I like to say, "No joy for the writer, no joy for the reader. No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader." This means the emotions that I feel on any given story much be transferred to the readers in the storytelling work that I do taking the idea from pitch to finished product.

LA: You improve our area with your work. Tell us about “Watchdog” and “Summer Santa.”

DL: The Watchdog column is unique in American journalism. It's a column that comes out two or three times a week in which readers help us expose wrongdoing - and sometime "rightdoing" - in government and business. It's an investigative column. Very rare. Only a few other papers offer such a service to their readers because it is complicated and fraught with perils. But I do believe that some day all papers will offer it - if they want to survive - because it is incredibly popular with readers. And for the past decades, newspapers have given up this important public service to TV news. Newspapers have favored personal opinion columnists, of which I was one for more than a decade. But these are a dime a dozen, whereas investigative columnists are a necessity because the public really does feel like NO ONE looks out for them. You can see recent samples on my personal Web site.

Summer Santa is a charity I co-founded a decade ago to help area children with summer camp scholarships, back-to-school clothing, school supplies, free medical checkups, summertime toys and after-school activities.

LA: It seems like traditional newspapers have all kinds of new competition. How do you think the Internet has changed reporting?

DL: Not as much as most people would have you believe. Now you don't have to wait until the next morning's paper to get the news. You can get it almost immediately. If you ever go to and type in something in the search box, it shows stories on the subject that you are interested in along with a note that says something like "Post 27 minutes ago." But the basics of news reporting are still the same, and news reporters who are talented and work hard and know their craft and their beats are still in high demand. Bloggers have opinions, but they mostly derive their facts from newspaper or magazine stories. Without journalists, there would be a lot less to have an opinion about. And when was the last time a blogger did an interview or searched government records or attended a public meeting? I'd say that one percent of all bloggers are actually involved in the craft of real journalism.

LA: Some people tell me they just cannot get news coverage despite a decent hook. What advice would you have for them?

DL: The key to your question is "a decent hook." Decent is not good enough. It has to be spectacular. I teach seminars on how to get your stories into media outlets. In summary, you have to present the media outlet with a dramatic story that has a beginning, middle and an end, with a hero and a villain, a plot, dramatic conflict and a climax. Any PR pitch can be turned into that format if the "pitcher" is willing to do a little work to construct it like that. The old-fashioned press release? Just really doesn't work any more.

LA: What are the biggest mistakes you see by wanna-be newsmakers?
DL: They send out a mass-mailing press release to anyone and everybody, especially people who could never use it. In this day and age, there is no excuse for why you shouldn't target your audience. With a little research on the Internet you can actually find out who at any media outlet is actually the person most likely to look at your idea. I get 50 press releases a week, and I DON'T READ A SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

LA: You are your own best publicist for your speaking services and your book, The Dog of My Nightmares: Stories by Texas Columnist Dave Lieber, by getting articles in magazines, e-newsletters and blogs. What is your strategy?

DL: Your question is based on the idea that my getting articles in magazines, e-newsletters and blogs actually sells books. The truth for me is that they don't sell a single book. I've probably sold 20,000 copies of the three books I've produced and none of them are sold through the methods you describe. I sell them through personal appearances, speeches and basically, for lack of a better term, sheer force of personality. It's very easy to do these days. And 95 percent of the people who buy my books have never even seen my column. They have seen me in person. I do believe that any writer or other person who has a strong message to share should seriously consider self-publishing their own book. And I'm not talking about going through one of those vanity-like presses like AuthorHouse, etc. I'm talking about doing it yourself. In fact, I've helped many people learn how to do this and be successful. I started getting so many requests to teach how to do this that I created my Guide to Self-Publishing which consists of an A-Z manual on how to do everything from concept to bidding for a printing to producing the book, and then, most importantly, how to sell it. It comes with a 3-hour accompanying CD audio guide. It's available on my Web site, in the "Yankee Cowboy Store."

LA: You had a great article recently on story-telling. This is a big passion of mine. Would you share some of your tips?

DL: Thanks. Again, this is something else that I teach at seminars. And I included a very long chapter on how to do this in my newest writing manual called "The High-Impact Writer: Ideas, Tips & Strategies to Turn Your Writing World Upside Down." It's 35,000 words showing everything that I know about non-fiction writing from both a storytelling and writing viewpoint. Also available in the Yankee Cowboy Store on

As for some tips, here are a few:
1. Make sure you have, as I said above, a true story with a beginning, middle and end, a plot, a dramatic conflict between a hero and a villain and a climax. The story should leave you with something meaningful, more than entertainment and drama. It should impart some universal truth about the human condition.
2. If you have serious information you want to impart, make sure you hide it within the body of the actual story. Like taking your medicine surrounded by a whole lot of sugar to help it go down.
3. Humans really only process information in a way that they both remember and care if it comes to them in a story. A fact-laden Power Point presentation is truly the kiss of death, unless that presentation shares the information as a story. That can easily be done as a Power Point but very few PPT presenters understand how to do that.

LA: Why did you start speaking?

DL: I've been speaking since 1980. I was working for a small paper in Florida that paid me $200 a week, and I could barely live on that. So the paper paid me $5 a speech every time I went and appeared before a Rotary Club or other audience. I began giving two or three a week because that extra $15 really went a long way for me back then. I got so good at it so quickly that the publisher of the paper actually started giving me some of his speeches. And when I left the paper and had speeches scheduled, he took mine and filled in for me. He went on to become publisher of USA Today. That was almost 30 years ago, and now I give about 100 or more speeches a year across the nation. It's so much fun because unlike my writing, I can see the immediate reaction from audiences!
LA: Dave, here is a virtual standing ovation for all of your terrific advice. Thanks so much!