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