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!

Lessons from Tragedy

Just when I was ready to talk about Don Imus, Alberto Gonzales and more... the nation's worst school shooting occurs.

These events sadden us, numb us, cripple us and shake up our routines. Some media coaches will tell you it's a matter of when, not if, an act ofviolence will occur at your school or workplace.

Today on "Mornings with Lorri & Friends," one of our guests was Al Meredith, Pastor of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. Al had just returned from burying his mother in 1999 when a gunmen entered the foyer of the church and began shooting. A short time later, eight were dead, including the shooter, and seven more were injured. Pastor Meredith has since been regarded as a resource to the news media because, instinctively, he did everything right in a crisis. He made himself available to the media at any hour requested. He spoke in colorful soundbites. He is an intelligent, articulate preacher and that came across in his replies.

Today he gave advice to those in Virgnia regarding the media. He said, "You can't avoid the media. They are there to do a job. They're not the enemy."

In light of this crisis, it's great to remind you to have a MEDIA CRISIS PLAN.

Also, be ready to address basic questions:

1. What happened? (Reporters know or they wouldn't be there, but they want to hear it in your words)
2. Where did security go wrong? Could this have been prevented?
3. How bad is the situation?
4. What's happening now?
5. What happens next?
6. How are you going to prevent this situation from happening again?
7. What are you going to do for victims and/or their families?

None of us wants a crisis to happen. But when one does, you will not regret time spent in preparation, drills and discussion.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Soundbite Mentality

I've been hearing the word "soundbite" and the phrase "soundbite mentality" used disparagingly. For instance, "That's not thorough. It's just a soundbite." Or, "We really need to get past the soundbite mentality and dig deep into this issue."

As The Soundbite Coach, I'm gritting my teeth and not taking the comments personally.

I agree that there are many issues we all need to go deep on. So many stories need background, sidebars and follow-up. But in our time-starved, information overloaded society, we also need soundbites. They are not a luxury; they are crucial to survival.

Soundbites give us the quick read we need to make a decisions. And that decision may be to get more information.

Soundbites--not in the news sense--but in the real-live sense are used every day.

  • Help me!
  • That guy's about to run into you!
  • Please stop shouting-I have a migraine.
  • The stock's tanked. What are we going to do?

Soundbites used as taglines or slogans build morale. Soundbites used in crisis communicate quickly--just watch "ER." Soundbites in war save lives.

If you've read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, you know that even a seven-second soundbite is an eternity compared to the rapid rate our subconscious is taking in information.

If you haven't read the book, get it. You'll have new respect for soundbites.

And in the news sense, when you can't speak in soundbites, and the editor chops 29 seconds out of your 34-second response, and you look silly on the newscast, call me. I can help.