Congratulations! Your book has just been published, and you’re ready to start promoting it. Or maybe you’re ready to announce a new coaching program, workshop or seminar that you’ll be hosting or presenting at….
Wherever you’re at in this level of your writing business, you’ve moved into ‘public relations’ stage of building the business side of your writing business.
Entrepreneurs Must Wear Many Different Hats
And that means it’s time to add another ‘hat’ to your collection of entrepreneurial duties. Putting together your public relations materials is outside the scope of this article – so I’m just going to assume that everything is ready – you’ve got your online newsroom set up and ready to go, your press kit is available in both online and offline versions, you’ve created your editorial calendar and you’re posting regularly to your blog, and you’ve got your virtual book tour, guest blogging schedule and Webinars or other promotional materials set up. (If not, you might want to check out the Writer’s Business Academy Bookstore, and browse around there for some helpful books or special reports, or take our Publicity and Promotion course.)
And of course, another option entirely is hiring your own publicist, to help promote you.
So, if you’ve got everything mentioned above ready to go – you’re done, right? You can sit back and wait for your fifteen minutes of fame to shine a spotlight on you…
Nope. Wrong. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.
Here’s what’s missing. Unless you (and your staff if you have one) are prepared for the series of media interview requests that are (hopefully) going to start hitting your inbox, or making your phone ring off the hook - you could be setting yourself up for disaster.
Here’s what you need to know about working with the media:
First of all, real journalists – especially the successful ones – are always on the lookout for exclusive news.
At the very least, they want to be the first to break the story, or publish an interview. Which means they’re alsoways looking for a ‘scoop’. Where this can be a problem is with the kind of news they’re looking for.
Namely, some of them ‘have ways of getting you to talk” – and to say things you shouldn’t, or to get you flustered and ‘off message’ so you don’t say the things that you wanted to say.
Some of the ‘tricks of they trade ‘they use can include being very friendly, using flattery, speaking to you before or after an interview in an informal setting (which still counts – nothing is really ‘off the record’ except on TV), asking leading questions that are designed to take advantage of your natural tendency to boast or go off topic, using carefully worded phrases that you agree with too quickly, or asking questions that can only be answered one way or you run the risk of looking like an idiot. (And by the way, this is not a condemnation of journalists. It’s their job to ask tough, leading questions, and to get a story. Their job is NOT to promote you or your book or program. And I believe strongly that ethical journalists deserve your respect.)
So how should you prepare for your first media interview?
Public relations, especially when it comes to working with the media, is both an art and a science. We’ll get into the science side of things in just a minute, because there are well-defined rules and steps that you can follow to be successful.
But first, I want to explain something very important about media interviews.
You CANNOT control the media.
You have no control over:
- What questions you’re asked
- What the journalist’s agenda is
- How much of your interview is actually used
- When your interview is aired or published
What you can control is what you say, how you say it and how you look or sound.
So let’s go into the ‘science’ of being interviewed…
1. Stay on Message. You want to create no more than 3 key messages. They need to be short, they need to touch the heart and mind of your listener, and they need to be said in such a way that the audience can relate to what you’re saying. Also, remember that you’re the expert – so be calm, confident and relaxed – and get your message out there.
2. Promises, Promises. Don’t expect to have anything be ‘off the record’. If you want to succeed at getting more media, you need to make – and keep – a promise that you’re going to be a good guest. This means you need to do some basic research before you agree to an interview – you want to know what the show is about, who their audience is, and what their expectations are as it relates to your book, product or service. Your ‘promise’ is to give information in the interview that makes the host or journalist look good – by giving the audience what they wanted. .
3. Who’s On First? While it’s important to remember that it’s not your show, and there are many things you can’t control, you can – and have to – control the interview. You do this by making the journalist’s job as easy as possible from the get-go. Provide all the information they might need – whether it’s in your press kit, in an online newsroom, or by sending information to the journalist. It’s also a good idea to provide a list of interview questions and story ideas. Give them photos – head shots of you, of your book cover, or if you’re promoting a product, send product shots. And if you’re asked a question out of left field, it’s okay to use a bridge phrase to get things back on track.
4. Who’s Got Your Back? Remember, it’s not the journalist’s or host’s job to promote you. They’re not a member of your publicity team, and they (usually) aren’t there to promote your book, services or product. What they want is a story that their audience is going to find controversial, timely, important or interesting. So if you feel like you need some help, either hire a publicity expert to go with you and field the tough stuff, or take a course in media training so you’re prepared.
The Art of the Successful Media Interview
Being a good interview is as much an art as a science – but luckily, it’s an art that can be learned. Part of it comes with experience, which, of course, when you’re starting out, you don’t have. So here are some things you can start doing right now, to help you become the consummate professional, and start getting more media requests than you can shake a stick at…
1. Training. Invest in yourself by taking some media training. You can learn a lot of insider’s tips – that, once you know them, seem easy and obvious. (And isn’t that always the way once you’ve mastered a new skill?) But until you know what to do – and what not to do – you run the risk of making mistakes that can kill your chances of being listed as a good guest and getting invited to other shows. ,
2. Role-Playing. One of the required steps in our media training at the Writer’s Business Academy is role playing – you’ll receive mock interviews – which sometimes are taped so you can review your on-camera mannerisms – and learn how to do flawless interviews. One of the biggest advantages of this training is that you’re paired with an experienced media relations specialist – and they’ll walk you through mock interviews until you’re completely comfortable with the process. Of course, you don’t have to take the training to practice. You can ask a friend, famiy member or colleague to put you through your paces.
3. Public Relations Professionals. If you have the money, you might want to hire a public relations consultant to handle some of the many tasks involved in getting media attention – such as fielding inquiries, helping you create your key messages, writing and distributing media releases, setting up interviews, etc.
4. Attitude. The most important aspect of any interview is your attitude. Go into the interview feeling confident, positive and excited about the message you’re going to share, and you’ll find people naturally respond to you. Most of the time, especially when you’re promoting your book, you’re not going to run into negative attitudes or sneak attacks.
So enjoy the process of getting media attention and being interviewed… You deserve it!