Sunday, November 28, 2010

Time Zones

In the last four years, I've worked in four time zones. So consider me an expert on this. I bring it up because I have been working for networks which book authors, entertainers and newsmakers on national shows, and some people say the most stupid things about time zones. Here are a few pointers to keep you from looking dumb:

1. "EST" is not an acronym for "Eastern Time." It stands for Eastern Standard Time, as opposed to "EDT" which stands for Eastern Daylight Time.

2. When parts of the country fall back or spring forward, refer to it correctly as "Daylight Saving" time, not "Savings."

3. Arizona (and parts of Indiana) do not fall back or spring forward. If you are working with a scheduler based in Arizona, it may help to understand that when the rest of the country is in "Daylight Saving" time, Arizona is like Pacific Daylight Time. When most of the rest of the nation is in Standard Time, Arizona is like Mountain Standard Time.

4. To help avoid confusion, when you are confirming an interview time, write out both the interview's local time and the interviewee's local time. For instance, that might look like this:

Host time: 9:00 am Mountain Standard
Author time: 10:00 am Central Standard

Here is a resource for you that might help with other questions you have:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tips for Interviewers

Lately, it seems as though I get as many requests for help from would-be hosts as I do from people wanting to know how to survive grilling by a reporter. Many are starting an Internet radio show, podcast or want to interview experts for their YouTube channel.

Interviewing is my favorite part of being a journalist, so I'm happy to share tips I've learned along the way.

1. Be ready for anything. A college professor said the hardest and most important task of interviewing is to listen. By the way, this helps in relationships, too.

2. Make the interviewees feel comfortable. If they are nervous, they won't speak as freely. One way to do that is to have a conversation-don't check off your list of questions.

3. Ask open-ended questions. These are ones that start: "Why did you...?" "How did you...?" "Tell me about..." "What happened when...?

Remember, the point of an interview is to share information, not to intimidate or anger--though it may seem that way when you listen or watch some shows! Enjoy the exchange. Your guest is giving his or her time and expertise. What a gift.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

News Anchor Barbie

I hate that I want to buy her. And I hate that I want to look like her. If I did, maybe I would've gotten more TV jobs. Seeing her reminds me of the News Director who told me, "You were our second choice. We made our decision for cosmetic reasons."

I hate what she does for the stereotype of journalists. The news industry is already has a crisis of goodwill and reputation. Will the fact that this Barbie is so perfect reinforce the idea that broadcasting is only a looks-based business?

What does she mean for people who want to be newsmakers?

  • Look your best.
  • Don't buy into the stereotype of "dumb blonde" - the woman interviewing you may be blonde, but chances are she is not dumb. We all know smart, beautiful people.
  • Don't base your news-watching preferences on looks. If so, you're buying into the idea that we all need to look like Barbie--or Ken--to be credible.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Twist on Looking Your Best

People often ask me what are the best clothes to wear in front of the camera. That's an important question. But one that I expect to hear more of is, "Should I get 'a little work done' before I am interviewed?"

As someone who got an extreme makeover every time I went to work for a different TV station, I can talk about makeup techniques and good hair. Since I started in this business nearly 30 years ago, I have learned tricks from makeup artists, stylists and colleagues who participated in beauty pageants. But it was a speaking colleague who took me aside three years ago and suggested I would benefit from Botox. She even offered her dermatologist's name and number. I took her advice and have had "a little work" done in the years since. My husband and mother could tell right away. Another observant close friend was horrified that I'd done such a thing. And another close friend didn't notice. If anyone else could tell, they didn't mention it. But I liked the results and felt more confident. I thought I looked well-rested, not necessarily younger. So, I recommend this to men and women alike to look your best. But consider these thoughts:

1. It can be expensive and painful. Ask about costs and numbing techniques up front.
2. Only go to a dermatologist or other medical doctor. A dermatologist can give you prescription for a retinol cream which can make your skin glow.
3. Do NOT have any work done less than two weeks before an on-camera appearance. As careful as a doctor is, you can have side effects, which include bruising.
4. Ask your friends of a certain age who look "well rested" if they can make a recommendation for a doctor.
5. Have realistic expectations.
6. Botox lasts 3-6 months. Fillers can last as long as a year. Nothing is permanent.

This whole idea may horrify you, like it did my friend. It's certainly not a requirement to being an on-camera newsmaker. But if every time you look in the mirror, you tell yourself you're not aging well, this may be a solution to try at least once. Some of us look older than we are and only want to look our age. Again, this may be a solution.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Being Gracious

Recently, a woman came to our studio to record an interview that would be played on the radio station later in the week. She was nervous and wanted to read her answers. When guests do this, it sounds like they're reading and doesn't showcase them in their best light. However, because her cause was so relevant, we took extra care and time with her and managed to get a soundbite or two that did air.

I was prepared to receive a call from her expressing disappointment about the brevity of the piece that aired. So I was pleasantly surprised when I got a voicemail that said something like this, "Thank you for airing part of our interview. I hope you'll broadcast part two when you get a chance. And I'm available anytime to talk more about this project."

We had no intention of airing any more of the interview. And I probably won't call her again unless she somehow lets me know that she has done something to improve her performance in front of microphones ( Media Coaching?, but take a cue from the pleasant call. Being gracious always helps reporters remember you in a positive light.

Monday, August 9, 2010

When Should You Send Press Releases?

From Business Wire:

A poll findsTuesday mornings are the best time to send a press release, according to 215 professional communicators. The data reinforces longstanding advice on the topic. For decades we’ve told clients that the best time to send a press release is “early in the day, early in the week.” Of course the general disclaimer “It depends” applies here, as the timing of any press release is subject to the nature of the news, goals of that release, the news of the day, and other variables. That said, we’ll resist the urge to say “I told you so,” and enjoy the fleeting affirmation of having PR Peeps confirm our sage advice. This poll was a challenge to analyze, as it was the first time we asked an open-ended question. In retrospect, we could have done a better job framing the survey, as responses ranged from time of day, to day of week, to general musings such as “when you have news to announce” or “you’re the experts–you tell us!” That said, the single most common answer, with 135 votes, was “mornings” or a variation thereof, such as “before noon” or “before 10 AM.” The second biggest vote getter, with 71 votes, was Tuesdays or a variation, such as “Tues. – Thursday.” Below are the details, as best we can present them. When’s the Best Time to Send a Press Release?- Tuesdays–71, or 53%- Mondays –16, or 7 %- Mornings–135, or 63%- 10 AM–17, or 8%.

As mentioned above, the numbers don’t add up to 215, since many people answered with multiple recommendations such as “about 10 AM, Mon – Thursday” while others answered in unique and difficult-to-quantify ways. The numbers above are our best reflection of the data. We apologize for the lack of scientific approach here–any market researchers who want to pile on with advice, please email me at To those who participated, thank you–-and how about helping with our next PR Peeps Poll: Do You Tweet the Links to Your Press Release? This poll is back to multiple choice. Business Wire

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Soundbite Coach

1. You have no idea what a soundbite is.

2. You have never been interviewed before and now, a journalist or talk show host has scheduled time to talk with you.

3. You have been interviewed before... and you bombed.

4. You need an objective journalist to tell you if your interviews are logical, compelling and effective.

5. You cannot think of acceptable answers to reporters other than, "#@*?!!*."

6. You seek publicity to build awareness for a new product, service, book or cause, and your messages are getting no traction.

7. You want insurance against a crisis.

8. You have a high-stakes presentation scheduled.

9. You have received unflattering attention in social or news media.

10. You know your employees are not hearing you. You want shorter, stickier taglines to change the culture.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Using the Right Words with Workers

This is from my friend Anne Bruce, who quoted me in her book, Speak for a Living. It was so good that I'm recommending her new book without even reading it. Here are details:

Fast, Easy-to-Use, Instant Plans and Tools on How to Develop and Coach Others, Brand Talent and Grow Employees to Their Greater Potential!

Click here to go directly to for more info about the book...

My newest book release, Perfect Phrases for Employee Development Plans, was published and released by McGraw-Hill 3 weeks ahead of schedule!

This book has been called a powerful tool for leaders at all levels who want to have instant access to planning, tips and tools for employee development, branding talent and grooming people for advancement, while pinpointing people's strengths and motivating global talent pools.
This is not just a "how-to" book, but a "what-to-do" book!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What Does Service Have to Do With the Media?

On Independence Day, it's appropriate to blog about customer service. You see, in America, we all have the freedom to start our own business. But that doesn't mean we're good at it or deserve positive publicity.

Recently, I've been a survivor of horrible customer service on home repairs costing thousands of dollars. Don't you think if I'm spending that kind of money, I have the right to be treated with courtesy? Unfortunately, that is not one of the rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

Fortunately, I do, by the blessing of being born in the USA, have the right to free speech. And I will exercise that freedom to tell everyone I know about the horrible service and lack of respect I received by a small business based in Georgia. (Please send me a comment or email if you want the name of this foundation repair company). I have posted on Facebook, Tweeted, been re-Tweeted and even mentioned the name of this terrible company on my radio show.

So the lesson here is to offer outstanding customer service! You may not get positive publicity right away, but you will go viral if you treat clients poorly. People will let others know not to use you. Then, instead of just unhappy customers to worry about, you may have to learn about crisis communications.

In my case, I think the offensive company is too stupid to even know that it's being discussed over the Internet and on a radio network. Businesses like this should fail. They do not represent the best America has to offer.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Common Sense Media Advice

DO NOT conduct an interview and say insulting remarks about your boss and expect those remarks not to be published. The more you insult, the more headlines you will generate. If a news outlet knows it has a juicy story, it's going to pre-release the compelling material to other media outlets, so that it will get more buyers or viewers.

This applies to anyone: If you cannot say something nice, don't say it at all.

This applies to people in high-profile positions: If you say something not nice, it's a news story.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Attracting Faith-Based Media

Unless you listen to it, watch it or read it, you might not be aware that there are whole networks and publications created for those devoted to a particular religion. For example, many cities have their own edition of The Jewish Journal, and you may have seen Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.

You don't necessarily need to be pitching a story having to do with the Torah or churches to be featured on this kind of specific media, but you do have to explain to the reporter or producer why your angle fits his or her audience.

In my experience scheduling guests for Christian radio and TV networks, we were looking for parenting, education, health and topical (meaning current events) guests in addition to ministry guests. So you may be missing valuable publicity by not pursuing these outlets.

However, note that producers have a discerning ear. I would not, could not schedule guests who used profanity or coarse language. So cut out of your everyday conversation commonly-heard phrases such as: "Oh my God" or "Good Lord"--these are offensive to the faith-based media.

Once, I felt an author's topic would be helpful and interesting to our audience, but he laced his conversation with the phrases mentioned above. I asked if I could give him advice, and he was gracious about wanting it. I told him those phrases would have our phone lines lit up with negative calls--and he was flabbergasted. He was not aware that he was using those terms.

We ended up having him as in-studio guest, and he concentrated on his content and chose his words carefully. The phone lines did light up--because the listeners wanted a copy of his book.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Text Book Cases

In the 1980's, we studied the Tylenol tampering case to learn how to respond to crisis. Johnson & Johnson and its spin doctors reacted so well, that incident was a pattern for years to come.

In the 1990's, we had Food Lion's run in with ABC and Ford's exploding tires, and we learned more nuances of what to do in crisis response. We also had horrible tragedies such as Columbine and the Oklahoma City Bombing to prepare us for the unthinkable.

Then a new century evolved and we learned from Mayor Rudy Giuliani and others about saying the right thing when the sky is literally falling down around us.

Now, a new text book chapter is being written. The BP oil catastrophe will be analyzed from a crisis response for years to come. The initial take from media critics is that the company is doing some things well in terms of crisis communications and some aspects could use some work. For example, BP has been praised for its handling of social media. But reporters and observers are questioning the corporation's transparency, ability to solve the crisis, and wording on legitimate claims.

If there could be a silver lining to this ugly mess in the Gulf, it is that we all will learn more about responding to the public and the media when disaster strikes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Got Any Better Ideas for BP?

Top Ten Ways BP Can Improve Its Image

10 .Change "BP" from "British Petroleum" to "Bunnies and Puppies"
9. Scrap the snotty British accents
8. Cry on "Oprah"
7. Take a page from AFLAC. New mascot: wise-cranking oil-soaked duck
6. Find Bin Laden
5. Start making cookies. Who doesn't love cookies?
4. What's wrong with our image?
3. Switch from "Drill Baby Drill" to "Help Daddy Help"
2. Instead of their image, maybe they can focus on fixing the damn leak!
1. For goodness sakes, get Iron Man to do something!

The Late Show with David Letterman

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Grass Roots Publicity

Have you ever written a letter to the editor of your local newspaper? Have you ever called in to a talk show? These are two low-cost ways to get the attention of the public and journalists.

Also, are you using social media to your advantage? Don't just write a press release. Put it on your website, your blog, your LinkedIn account and your Facebook page. Then tweet a link to it, and send an email to your friends who are also followers on Twitter to re-tweet.

Join organizations and contribute to the monthly newsletters or magazines. Volunteer. Build relationships and a database. When you have big news, send a postcard or letter to your database.

The point is, you can do many things to publicize your cause, product or service that some people would call just staying in touch with your friends or network.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Three Sides to Every Story

Remember when dealing with the news media that there are always, at the minimum, three sides to every story: his, hers and the truth.

I heard a woman named Julie Ann put a spin on this yesterday. She said the three sides are yours, mine and I-won't-tell-if-you-won't.

The lesson is we all perceive incidents differently, so your life experiences, memory, vision and hearing may effect the truth that you tell the public. Get as many facts as you can and be as accurate as you can, so that the truth you paint does not illustrate an unflattering picture of you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One Way to Answer the Yes or No Question

On March 3, the chair of the Democratic National Convention, Tim Kaine, was being interviewed on a national morning television show. The discussion became spirited.

At one point, the host said, "Just answer 'yes' or 'no.'"

Kaine, also the former governor of Virginia, had a terrific response. He said, "I'm not a potted plant, so I can't answer just 'yes' or 'no.'"

While you may not want to use his exact answer, do be prepared for how you would respond to a reporter demanding a short one-word reply from you.

Are You Ready for a Crisis?

The headlines are filled with companies making the wrong decisions daily. Is your organization prepared for unflattering accusations?

Here are three documents you should have, even if your company enjoys positive publicity:

  1. A Media Policy - helps keep your employees from talking out of turn to the news media
  2. A Crisis Preparedness Plan - includes business continuity strategies as well as how to contact the media
  3. A Rapid Response Strategy - helps you respond immediately to social media to prevent rumors, bad will and poor public perception

If you don't have these items, you might as well not have insurance. I can help you write and develop them. Give me a call.

Friday, February 12, 2010

10 Mistakes People Make With the News Media

1. Saying “No comment.” This annoys reporters and makes you look guilty.

2. Getting angry at a reporter. The reporter would rather be covering the water-skiing squirrel, believe me. But this was the assignment, and she’s just doing her job.

3. Inserting verbal fillers. Editors cannot take your “uh’s” and “um’s” out in editing.

4. Wearing the wrong colors for TV. Despite HD cameras, black and white and small patterns can still look bad and be distracting. Wear solid colors. Blues are best.

5. Asking to see the story ahead of time. This offends journalists. You are insinuating they will not do a good job of reporting accurately and fairly.

6. Not preparing for a crisis. It’s a matter of when, not if, an act of violence or Mother Nature or an innocent mistake will adversely affect your organization. Media crisis training is an insurance policy. Invest now before it’s too late.

7. Not having a media policy. Make sure your employees know who the company spokesperson is and how to refer calls to him or her.

8. Not calling back immediately. Journalists are on deadlines, and if you don’t call back within a few minutes, they will start looking for another source, and you will have missed the opportunity.

9. Speaking too long. Soundbites are short. Don't blather.

10. Lying. Dishonesty will come back to haunt you. Media organizations keep tapes, digital files and notes for a long, long time. They will resurrect your lie and make a news story out of it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Are You Repeating Annoying Phrases?

In person or on TV/radio, you may be using crutch words or phrases that drive people crazy, mostly because you're repeating them so often. For instance, I have one friend who says "basically" after every second or third word. I have another friend who ends almost every sentence with "or something."

Annoying your friends is one thing. But if you are a spokesperson or high-profile newsmaker, you may be hurting your image and diluting your message if you do this. One way to discover if you have this problem is to record an ordinary conversation and see if you are repeating any words or phrases unncessarily. Then listen or watch your media interviews and observe if you're repeating yourself.

Yesterday on "Good Morning America," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was talking about the Toyota recalls. He kept repeating the phrases "Hold their feet to the fire" and "take a back seat to nobody." I like the "back seat" phrasing when talking about cars, but I don't think it was intentional, and it got old after he said it twice. The phrases you want to repeat are your key messages, not meaningless cliches.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Marketing Ideas

Since I've looked at an estimated 20,000 press kits and press releases in my career and heard at least 2,000 pitches, my friends with small businesses often ask me for low-cost marketing or PR ideas. Here are a few strategies that might boost your bottom line in these trying times:

1. Include a "Press" or "Media" tab on your website. This is one of the first things reporters look for when they're researching whether to cover you. On this portion of your website, you can include press releases, a fact sheet, links to previous coverage, bios of key players and even photos.

2. Call or write your database. And by write, I mean send mail. We all get so many emails that it's too easy to delete ones that look impersonal. Send a postcard or a letter updating your list on services, accomplishments or products.

3. If you're reading this, you're probably already blogging, tweeting, facebooking or linking. If not, get started.

4. Attend the kind of meetings where you can tell people about your business. For women, there are ABWA and NAWBO chapters nationwide. Most communities have Optimist, Lion's, Rotary and lead-exchange meetings. Consider joining your Chamber of Commerce, too.

5. Write letters to the editor, articles and books. Get your name out there.

These are ways that may drum up business, but can also get the media's attention. I'd love to hear your tips, too! Let's help each other.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Toyota Crisis

I'd give Toyota a C- on the recall crisis. Finally, President and COO Jim Lentz provided comments this week, but looked less than transparent when ABC's Brian Ross met him with camera rolling. Hey, executives, how about trying this line: "We don't want anyone to get hurt driving our vehicles. So we are working around the clock to get this fixed. We are trying alternatives to see which can be implemented the quickest to get Toyota owners back on the road."

When a reporter persists, say: "I'd love to answer any questions you have. As to your question why we didn't act sooner, we acted immediately, but had conflicting information about what was causing the problem, so our research teams have been working to find answers for different combinations of issues."

Now, I don't know if that is the truth. For all I know, Toyota executives were off at wild parties not even knowing that people were dying driving their cars. When they evade questions and take too long to talk to the press, we all assume the worst.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Phrase to Use When You Can't Talk

If you've attended one of my Crisis Communications seminars, you know that to say "No comment" annoys reporters and makes you look evasive. In that seminar and in my new book, Be A Newsmaker, I give you phrases that help you be non-commital without saying the words, "no comment."

Here's a new phrase from NBC's David Gregory: "I'd love to help you out. I'm not going there." This was in response to a question about the network's late-night host (Leno vs. Conan) situation. This phrase will work for you, too. Say it with a pleasant face and repeat as many times as necessary.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Handling Clueless Callers on a Live Show

Recently, on my talk show, a fun guest, Joel Zeff, was giving books away to listeners who would call in with a question about his topic. A first-time caller got through and asked about Randy Alcorn's Heaven book. I thought the caller was asking a question about it, so I said that it was considered the definitive book on Heaven, but did he have a question about the workplace for Joel? Then the caller had the audacity to ask about yet another unrelated book! I think he thought if he brought up every title on his wish list, we might mail him one!

Joel took it and ran with it. His experstise is improvisational humor, and boy, did he have fun with the caller not wanting his book.

In nearly four years of live radio and TV, I experienced more than a few callers that I couldn't connect with, but most were gracious, smart and generous.

If you, as a guest on a live show, encounter a caller whose comment doesn't seem appropriate or on topic, use humor if you can. If you're blank, give the host a "I need help" look, and let him or her take over. That's what they're paid for.

For instance, we had a weekly guest, a finanical coach named Parkey Thompson, and on one of his first appearances, a woman called and asked about laxatives. We all laughed uncomfortably, and then realized the caller had really meant her question for our previous guest, our health and wellness guru, King Hoover. So, it was easy to tell her to contact King by email or call back next week, but for now, we were taking money questions.

You know what? This miscommunication happens in real life, with everyday conversations. So if you want practice for live broadcasts, try talking to all ages of people with different backgrounds. As one broadcasting professor taught, "Talk and write for the five-year-old and 95-year-old. Make sure everyone understands you."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Way to Get Ahead in the New Year

If you're in the Atlanta-North Georgia area, please keep reading...

Have you always wanted to speak better or represent your organization better? If so, I can help. For the first time, I’m teaching classes open to the public. Please take a look at the courses and see if any are a good fit for you or friends you know.

If you have questions about the class content, ask me. They will be held at The Etiquette School in Cumming. Space is limited, so please register soon. To see costs and enroll, click here.


Speak to Success—Basic Presentation Skills—This is hands-on, interactive and fun. I guarantee you will leave a better, more confident speaker. Each participant will leave with a DVD of his or her speeches and feedback. The class runs every Tuesday night from 6-8 pm.

Basic Video Production—My award-winning, film-making husband is going to help teach this one. Never again be disappointed in your home movies. You will learn behind-the-scenes secrets for making your videos and YouTube posts look more professional. Offered Saturday, January 9 from 1-4 pm.

Be a Spokesperson—Do you represent your business or non-profit organization to the media or in public presentations? Learn how to sound smart and look your best on TV. We will also talk about how to get media coverage. This class will run from 6-7 pm on Thursdays, January 21 and 28.

Conversation Etiquette—Are you gracious and encouraging? Does your speech reflect who you really are, or do you come off sounding like a jerk sometimes? Are you ever at a loss for words? Do you wish you had a phrase for the person who ticks you off? If you are nodding your head, this class is for you! It will be held from 7-8 pm Thursdays, January 21 and 28.

Marketing on a Shoestring—This one-evening session will be jam-packed with no-cost and low-cost ways to make big bucks without spending dramatic dollars. It’s ideal for small business owners, non-profit leaders and anyone who needs to get the word out about a good cause. Attend January 25 from 6-8 pm.

Thank you for considering enrolling and thanks for passing along to others who may benefit from these practial classes! You will leave with resource material and great ideas to improve your communication skills. If you're still reading and don't live in the Atlanta area, contact me to bring these courses to your neck of the woods!