Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Maybe I Was Wrong

Friday morning, on the radio show that I co-host, I shared the opinion that John Edwards should have pulled out of the 2008 presidential race after learning that his wife's cancer had returned. Take care of her now and run later, I said. He's still a young man at 53, and he's not even leading in the Democratic polls this time around.

My opinion was based on life experience. Five years ago, a co-worker's wife was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer in her spine, after she'd been treated for breast cancer a few years earlier. She died about 18 months later.

But after getting more information about the Edwards' decision, I am less judgemental. Oh, I'm still concerned about the younger Edwards children. But after watching the "60 Minutes" interview, I like the spin the John and Elizabeth are taking. It's an "embrace life" attitude, and it's inspiring. Thousands of cancer survivors are resonating with Elizabeth's position. One fact that swayed my opinion is that people are living longer with incurable cancer.

Will sympathy help the Edwards campaign? It may be soon to tell. As a soundbite coach, I applaud John's statement to Katie Couric: "There's not a single person in America that should vote for me because Elizabeth has cancer. Not a one. If you're considering doing it, don't do it. Do not vote for us because you feel some sympathy or compassion for us. That would be an enormous mistake. The vote for the presidency is far too important for any of those things to influence it."

One pundit says this experience will help John Edwards humanize his campaign. For instance, when Edwards talks about healthcare, voters will know he's experienced the system.

Another plus of this announcement has been all the nice things the other candidates have said. They're wishing Elizabeth well. Even Tony Snow, the White House spokesperson, whose cancer has returned, said Mrs. Edwards is setting a wonderful example of how to live with cancer.

My mind is not made up on this issue. I still think if I had the diagnosis Elizabeth does, I'd want to spend my last days laughing on a beach, not working for votes, traveling in a bus.

Even Katie Couric said that's not how she'd choose to spend her finite time.

And John reminded her that we're all different and none of us is promised any time... as he found out when his 16-year-old son died.

Here's what my mind is made up on... if I were his media coach, I'd be proud of John Edwards.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Smart Idea

My friend Peggy Collins has a new book out. It's titled, Help Is NOT a Four-Letter Word. Peggy knows she needs to pull out all stops to get publicity so that the books will sell. The initial days and weeks are important for bookstore orders, reprints, etc.

Peggy is lining up newspaper, magazine, radio and TV interviews. Because she had done few television interviews, she didn't want to be intimidated by the lights and equipment. So she called one of the stations nearest her home in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Peggy told the person she talked with about her upcoming interview in Dallas and wondered if she could have a tour of the station and see the news desk. The employee was gracious and invited Peggy out immediately. Shortly after the tour, the station asked Peggy to come back for an interview about her book.

That wasn't Peggy's intention when she asked for the tour, but she was happy to publicize the book in her own market.

One of the reasons Peggy was able to get a station tour is that she lives in a smaller media market. In the nation's top 25 markets, you usually have to know someone who works at the station--or be part of a larger civic group--to get a tour. I'm sure another reason she got the tour is that she knows how to ask for help--something covered in her book.

But getting a tour is no guarantee that guides will ask about your book, or if they do, have the decision-making power to schedule you for an on-air interview. At the worst, you'll have spent time getting more familiar with your local station. At best, you get publicity.

If you're reluctant to call and ask for a tour, then buy Peggy's book!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Interview with Jim Comer, Author and Speaker

After his father suffered a massive stroke and his mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Jim Comer found himself an "overnight parent" at the age of 51. Though everyone looked to him as the “man who knew all the answers,” he soon realized that he didn’t even know the questions. In eleven years of caregiving, Jim has lived the questions and learned the answers. He’s learned to deal with hospitals, insurance companies, rehab centers, nursing homes, his father’s deafness and his mother’s dementia. Through it all, Jim has kept his sense of humor and forged a deeper, more intimate relationship with his parents.

His book, When Roles Reverse: A Guide to Parenting Your Parents, is terrific! It was published nationally in the fall of 2006 by Hampton Roads and is available in bookstores and on line. His website is http://www.whenrolesreverse.com/. Jim has been getting lots of publicity, so we asked him to share a bit about his experiences with the media.

LA: Jim, has news coverage been hard to get for your new book?

JC: No, because this subject is on everyone’s mind right now. It is growing in importance every day as more and more baby boomers reach the age where they are caring for their parents, or getting ready to do so, and also thinking about their own retirement needs.

I believe this subject will be extremely newsworthy for the next decade and beyond.

LA: Your book is so needed in our society today. Are reporters and talk show hosts focusing on the trend of care giving… or more on your personal stories?

JC: NBC Nightly News did a two-week daily segment on The Aging of America and got the largest email response in the history of the show. It is an ideal subject for talk show hosts, both TV and radio. It could also have a program all its own, on radio, TV, or public access, and I’m thinking of moving in that direction.

LA: What have you learned about dealing with the media as you’ve launched the book?

JC: I’ve learned that the media is as hungry for good stories as writers are hungry to tell their story. If your material is timely and fresh, and you really know your subject, you can get interviews in the press and radio. TV morning shows will give you about three minutes. The hard part is getting on national TV because there is so much competition and so many gatekeepers to get through. That’s why an “end run” might be most effective.

LA: Clarify what you mean by "end run."

JC: An end run in football is when a ball carrier does not go up the middle through the line, but out to the side (an end run). What I mean is that tackling the big name talk shows through their official channels may not work unless you have a powerful name representing you. You need to find someone who has access to the star even if the person has no official position. I don’t care how Oprah gets the book as long as she gets it. I’d love to know her manicurist and get the book to her. If she loved it, then Oprah would hear about it and might take a look. That’s an end run.

LA: You have been wanting to be interviewed on the Oprah show for a while. How’s that going?

JC: I have Oprah’s picture in a frame on my desk. I met a man who claimed to know her father, but it turns out that he only knew a friend of the father and has not volunteered to send him the book. I need to find a way to get the book to Oprah, probably an unconventional solution, and may have a focus group just on that one subject.

LA: You’re good at seeing the funny side of life. What is the wackiest question a reporter has asked you?

JC: No one has asked me a wacky question that I can remember, probably because of the nature of my subject, but I use lots of humor in my book, speech and interviews. The question I find most interesting (and a little odd) is “Do you feel anger or resentment because you’ve had to give up so much in order to parent your parents?” The answer is a resounding “NO.” I couldn’t do this if I was angry and resentful though I’m sure there are children of aging parents who live with anger and resentment. I’ve been fortunate because I really like my parents, have excellent facilities where they have lived and the full support of my cousins.

LA: What else would you like to add?

JC: I feel that promoting my book is a long-term project. It’s an “evergreen” and will be just as important – or more so – in ten years as it is today. I’ve had surprisingly strong support from my publisher, and now it’s time for me to make publicity and paid speeches the number one priority in my business life.

If I can give enough speeches, interviews and get some national TV and corporate sales, I think the book will take off….and allow me to “do well by doing good.” The absolute best part of having written the book is when I get an email, letter or have a personal conversation in which someone tells me how much the book has meant to them and their family and how it helped them make decisions and get out of denial.

LA: Jim, I'll tell you how much the book has meant to me. It made me laugh--and cry--out loud. I bought copies for my friends with aging parents and for my parents. Aging and caregiving can be ugly, tough subjects and you handle them beautifully.

Jim is eager to hear from anyone who knows someone who knows someone who knows Oprah, Ellen, Dr. Phil, Rosie O’Donnell, Barbara Walters, John Stewart, Charles Osgood or the folks at NPR. If you can help, please go to his website to find out how to contact him by phone or email.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

News is Not Depressing

I cringe when someone tells me, "I never watch the news any more. It's just too depressing."

It may be a matter of semantics, but it's how the station presents the news that depresses you. The news itself informs you, keeps you current, warns you of hazards and provides conversational fodder--what a great deal!

Would you ever say to someone, "I never read any more. It's just too informative." No, you wouldn't want to sound ignorant.

But in defense of the people that are turned off or tuned out, when a TV or radio station presents too many bad news stories in a row, it can have a demoralizing effect. That's one reason journalists are now encouraged to create "trend" or "issues" stories. This means instead of just reporting murder after murder, crime after crime, the reporter analyzes the causes behind the higher death rate or looks at different solutions for preventing crime.

If you are not watching or listening news because it's too depressing, please try another channel before you quit on the medium. Many people have died to protect our First Amendement rights, so we need to cherish them. Another channel might present the news differently--in a less tabloid style, for instance, or you might find you like that weather forecaster who wears a bowtie!

How to Conduct a Great Radio Interview

1. Be there. Double check time zones--you will most likely be given the time zone that the show is in.

2. Really be there. Make sure the station has your backup phone number and that you have the emergency control room number.

3. Turn it off. Your computer--it makes noise. After you've established contact, turn your cell phone off. If it's a station in which you can receive the signal, turn your radio off.

4. Don't cook or otherwise multi-task during your interview. You want to be focused. Just because the interviewer and listeners can't see you, they can hear you. They can also tell if you're distracted.

5. Prepare the interviewer. Even if you're not asked, do send your bio and suggested questions ahead of time.

6. Practice answering questions. Although you may think a radio interview is just talking, you want to sound conversational without coming across as canned. You want to let the questioner get the whole question out… and you want to be gracious even if you're interrupted. You want to sound professional but spontaneous. And for some, this takes rehearsal. Practice with a friend or for that extra polish, hire a soundbite coach!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Interview with Ellen Castro, Leadership Consultant

Ellen Castro is an international speaker, coach and consultant, specializing in communication and leadership. Her tagline is so true; she says, "It’s all about TRUST!" She should know. She's the author of Spirited Leadership: 52 Ways to Build Trust on the Job.

Ellen is also a dear friend of mine--we met on an airplane on Superbowl Sunday 1995! I asked her to share some of her Soundbite Savvy.

LA: Ellen, you have been interviewed by television stations and several magazines about your work and your books. How would you say the media has treated you?

EC: I’ve had the good fortune of being interviewed for local and national media, and it has all been good. I believe it has all been good because I was so thankful for having the interview. Thus I was enthused and excited which got the interviewer hooked and asking more and more questions.

LA: Did you learn any lessons along the way about how to answer questions?

EC: What I learned was that being passionate is a huge plus, and knowing that I am the subject matter expert gave me the confidence to handle any and all questions no matter how off the wall they were.

LA: Journalists wouldn't be interviewing you if they didn't feel you had something important to say. But is there something you wish you had done differently?

EC: Probably the one thing I need to remember and at times wished I would have done differently is to be totally present and centered in God before and during the interview... to seek His guidance versus my ego.

LA: Hey, maybe we should put this interview in my other blog! But back to soundbites, what advice would you give to authors who are looking to get positive publicity?

EC: The advice I would give authors is to have a reputation built on trust so people refer you to people and poof... you have publicity. You never know where a lead will come from... so always be kind. And in being kind to the interviewers... they will be kind to you and project you positively.

LA: That goes along with what I was writing in the blog a few days ago, about reporters being human. Ellen, thanks for your time. I have seen you speak, and you connect so well with your audience. You really give the participants advice from your life and your heart. I'm so glad you were on that Southwest flight 12 years ago!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Interview with Susan Battley, PsyD, PhD, Executive Coach

Susan Battley is an internationally renowned psychologist, CEO coach and author with more than 20 years of experience working with world-class leaders and executives here and abroad. Her clients include JP Morgan Chase, Jones Apparel Group, Olympus, and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

"Fast Focus on Success," her radio program on leadership excellence, was commended by the Clinton White House Office of Science and Technology. Her most recent book is Coached to Lead: How to Achieve Extraordinary Results with an Executive Coach (Jossey-Bass, 2006).

A respected media resource, Susan has been featured in numerous outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, CNBC, National Public Radio, Chief Executive, Harvard Management Update, and Entrepreneur. I'm so pleased that she is going to share a bit about her media experiences.

LA: Susan, you’ve worked with newspapers, journals, radio and broadcast reporters. Do you have a preference of format? Which has been the most effective for you?

SB: From a cost-benefit perspective, my preference is for print media, including the web. Why? First, because my clients, who are typically senior decision makers and subject matter experts - prefer the written word. Second, print has a long "shelf-life" and makes for easy accessibility via the web. Thanks to search engines such as Google and Yahoo, anyone can check my expertise and "body of work" via newspaper and magazine article archives. Finally, the fact-checking process used by many magazines and periodicals before going to press affords a level of accuracy that often isn't possible with radio and television reporters, especially in "breaking news" situations.

LA: What are lessons you learned the hard way?

SB: Always assume that everything you tell a reporter is "on the record," especially if this is your first interview with him or her. For radio and television segments, be sure you clarify with the producer and interviewer before the interview any issues or topics that you cannot - or will not - discuss. For example, if you don't want your corporate clients to be named on-air, you'd better point this out in advance.

LA: That's a good suggestion and a request that ethical reporters will honor. Susan, do you have a secret for coming up with a soundbite?

SB: I try to hone my message or commentary into bullet points. I also try for pithy alliteration, such as the phrase: "leadership, not lawyering" to describe effective crisis management.

LA: That's helpful for journalists and listeners alike to remember your points. You have a great new book out, Coached to Lead. Will you continue to use the media as part of your strategy for publicizing the book and your coaching services?

SB: Of course. But I believe that being an expert resource to the media comes first. After all, they are looking for content that's of value and interest to their audience.

LA: We are, and we get turned off by people who only want to repeat the title of their book and not offer content. But turnabout is fair play. Since you coach executives, what is one aspect on which you’d like to coach reporters?

SB: Honor any and all promises made, or say up front that you can't offer a specific assurance or guarantee so that I can decide accordingly.

LA: Thanks for your time, Susan. Now that we shared the serious content, I want people to know that a smart person like you with two doctorate degrees can be a lot of fun. So I'm posting the photo of when you and I went out to dinner last summer!