Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Reporters are Human, Too

You may want to argue this one, if you've been in the midst of a reporter feeding frenzy, and you were the fresh meat.

That's a different situation we can talk about later.

But many of you just want to know how to become an expert in a journalist's database, so that he or she calls you for a comment or quote every time there's a story in your field.

It's the "Relationship to the R Factor" Principle. You have to establish a relationship with a reporter. Start out by sending your book, your white paper or your one-page to the reporter with your business card attached and a note that says, "If you find yourself covering a story on this topic and can use me for a quote (newspaper) or a soundbite (broadcast), I'd love to work with you."

When a reporter does seek you out and put you in the paper or on the air, send a thank you note to the reporter and a complimentary letter to the reporter's boss.

Reporters are human and will respond to kindness.

Monday, February 19, 2007

What is News? Part 2

It makes me crazy that celebrity weirdness is so much a part of the news cycle. Yes, it's interesting that Britney Spears shaved her head, but is it really worth spending so much time on? And today seems like the first day we haven't been bombarded with Anna Nicole Smith updates.

You do have a choice in the matter. Get your news from many sources. Learn which sources are more sensational than others. Some television markets are worse than others, so if you live in a city where the local news is lurid and embarrassing, decide to watch national broadcasts.

Try to get a little newspaper, a little radio, a little magazine and a little TV news. Even your favorite sources won't give you the total picture all the time.

With so many cable and Internet choices, you do not have to watch or read news that aims more to entertain than to inform you.

Here are a few online places to look for your news, if you're tired of the same old rut:

Happy headline hunting!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Interview with Max Jaffe, Money Expert

Max Jaffe is a friend of mine from the North Texas chapter of the National Speakers Association. He is an entertaining speaker and conducts money workshops teaching individuals about money and how it works, what it does and what it doesn't do. He says, "This is NOT about investing, it is not about taxes. Before one can invest, one must first get out of debt (why invest with a 7% return when your credit card is charging you 19%???!!!) Before one can get out of debt, one must save, and before one saves, one must understand money and how it works and track spending."

Max helps individuals and couples control their spending so they can get out of the trap of spending more than they make. For the first time since the Great Depression, Americans' saving rate was negative in 2005 and this trend continued into 2006, with a savings rate of -.5% and -1.0%, respectively.

Q: Max, You have been on local and national talk shows. How would you rate your experiences?

Max: My experience on talk/news shows has been wonderful. The hosts and the staff make me feel at home and very relaxed. However, when the camera rolls, and it's live, I got a bit nervous, but I think that's natural. The hosts were very well informed, read my material before the show and asked great questions, exhibiting the fact they did their "homework," which must be tough considering all the stories they cover.

Q: What did you do to get booked? And to get asked back?

Max: I sent the television station a copy of my book and a press release on white papers I had written. The producers said they liked my approach and found my material to be very timely. In order to get asked back, I did everything they asked me to do. I wrote thank-you notes to both the host as well as the producer and mentioned the fact I would love to come back if they ever found the need.

Q: Well, as a reporter and host, I have to pat you on the back for writing thank-you notes. We love to get those, and we don't get very many--so that makes you memorable.
Max, I had the pleasure of watching a couple of your interviews and you seem like a natural on camera. Did you do anything special to prepare?

Max: The only preparation I did was simply read the press release I sent the station. If you know your material, then it's natural to you, and you will look natural. I couldn't imagine being interviewed on a topic for which I wasn't an expert. By being an expert, you are one with your material, so you come off looking natural.

Q: What lessons have you learned about the news media?

Max: The biggest lesson I learned about the media is that they have to look like they know what they're talking about on a HUGE variety of subjects, and that HAS to be difficult. Making it as easy for them as possible allows them to look smart and will get you asked back.

Q: You're right. We journalists are supposed to be an expert in everything and we just can't be, so we depend on our interviewees to know their material. Well, did you think the TV exposure was worth the time and trouble?

Max: It's fun being on television. I didn't tell many people beforehand, and it was even more fun to have people contacting me telling me they saw the show. If you have a crusade, such as helping people with money, since this is something not taught in schools or the home, it's a great idea to try and get a large exposure, which television can provide, and allow you to reach out to many more people than you would have otherwise.

Max, thanks for your time and insight! Max has his own blog, full of money tips. Check it out!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Free Advice for Mr. Jones

It's been a big news day in Dallas. First, Texas native Anna Nicole Smith died. Then, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones introduced the new head coach, and Texas native, Wade Phillips.

If you're a newsmaker like Mr. Jones, please get media coaching or join Toastmasters. Jerry can come up with a soundbite, but his speech is so littered with verbal fillers (a nice way of saying he's got uncontrollable "um's") that he's hard to listen to. Jones probably wouldn't take the time to attend a weekly Toastmasters meeting, but it would quickly help eliminate those pesky distractions that make him sound like an amateur.

The inexpensive Toastmasters meetings help people eliminate unwanted words by having a person honk a horn or ding a bell every time you say, "Uh" or something similar. Where I used to attend, our club record was 27 "um's" for a two-minute speech. If Terrell Schaffer could get rid of that ugly habit, I bet Jerry Jones could, too.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

What is News?

People tell me often they don't understand why their cause, company or product doesn't attract news coverage.

I ask them, "Is it newsworthy?" And often, I get a blank stare in response.

So, let's talk about what news is.

My journalism professor defined news as, "Man bites dog."

Others have classified it with C-words: Catastrophe, Crime, Color, and Corruption.

Today's story about the astronaut love triangle explains news. And it may cover all of the C's.

In case you missed it, a female astronaut was arrested for attempted kidnapping and attempted murder. That's a story in itself, because astronauts are "The Right Stuff." They are the best of the best, the ones that jump higher, run faster, pump heavier and act nobler.

But it gets better. The suspect, in love with a second astronaut, and afraid she was losing his affection to yet a third astronaut, apparently wore diapers for 900 miles so she could get to and take down the woman standing in her way.

"It's stranger than fiction," my husband said. He's right--if it were in a novel, we'd dismiss the story as too crazy to make sense.

So the next time you're trying to pitch an idea to the news media, try wearing Pampers. I'm just kidding! But you see what you're up against. Your story has to be fresh, interesting, never-heard-of-before, or yes, stranger than reality.

Interview with Sandi Smith: Author, Pilot, Speaker

Sandi Smith is pretty amazing! She's the sixth American female and the 15th or so female in the world to co-pilot a single-engine airplane around the world. In 1995, she and Jay Merten, M.D. took his six-seat Piper Malibu prop to five continents and 20 destinations in 86 days.

She has written eight books, including Following Amelia: A Modern Day 'Round-the-World Flight. Her writing has won awards and has been published internationally. A CPA, Sandi holds an MBA in Management Information Systems. She is currently finishing a Masters of Science in Applied Cognition and Neuroscience.

Sandi took time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions about her views of the news media.

Q: Sandi, you’ve had a lot of different experiences, from flying around the world to studying how the brain works. Did you seek media attention or did it just come as a result of what you were doing?

Sandi: Both. Sometimes as a result of a client contact, one of my books, or from being a member of a professional association or committee, the press called me. Most of the time, I sought news coverage through press releases or advertising.

Q: What have been your most positive news media experiences?

Sandi: My most positive news media experience was when I owned a photography studio in the 1980's. I specialized in portraits of people's pets. An editor ran my samples in the New Products section of the magazine insert that comes with the Sunday paper. From that one exposure, I got four months worth of business. It literally launched my business.

Q: What was your most disappointing media experience?

Sandi: My least positive experience was recently with PR Newswire. I spent a lot of money sending press releases about wanting to help expose children to aviation programs and no one picked up the releases.

Q: What lessons have you learned about dealing with journalists?

Sandi: I think two main lessons: Be very careful -- discrete yet helpful -- about what you say: EVERYTHING is on the record. And I feel that you really need a huge hook to get picked up these days. So my lesson is to work hard on my hook.

Q: Will you continue to seek publicity as a strategy to let the public know about the projects you are working on?

Sandi: I will be selective in what I seek publicity on in the future. I hope to do some nonprofit children's work that should be amenable to press. Also some of my brain research should be interesting to the press.

Q: Thanks, Sandi, for your time and wisdom. I'd like to encourage readers to take a look at your website.