I do a lot of media training for authors that consists of several different elements, all aimed with the intention of influencing the audience to want to listen to you and ultimately to buy your book.
Media training covers a number of different aspects, including how you launch each interview, delivering your key messages with finesse, the ability to respond artfully to misdirected questions, tee up the next topic, and how to physically present yourself. Many get overly worried about how they look, more so than the actual content and delivery of the subject matter, but all elements are important.
Last week we covered 12 tips on how to have a successful at-home, on-camera interview. If you missed it, you can read it here.
While there are many important skills to develop through media training, many get hung up on how they look. It’s natural to wonder if you look OK on camera, and the good news is that you can actually develop some objectivity around it. In other words, if you see yourself on camera and you automatically wince inside, then some work needs to be done.
One of the best and most effective ways to do this is to test your responses by recording some mock interviews and then watching the playback. At first you might wince, but the more you train yourself to watch yourself and your performance, the easier it will become. Most of the time, that sensitivity to how we look on camera really has no merit, and after you’ve watched yourself enough, the bad feelings go away. Besides, how you look on camera is only one small piece of the whole equation.
The bigger issue I find when people do mock interviews is an inability to answer the tough questions. Part of this is because of who is conducting the mock interview. If it’s a friend or family member, they want you to do well and are not likely to ask you the hard stuff – the questions you don’t want to be asked. That’s where you start.
Let me repeat: If there are any questions you don’t want to be asked in an interview, then that is exactly where we begin. You must be able to tackle them.
Over the years, I partnered with a book seminar friend of mine who lives in Sedona, Arizona. In the program we developed, we would include two full days of media training during which I’d play the journalist/reporter and ask the really tough questions of each author so that by the end of it all, the interview was the most difficult exchange they would ever encounter.
Sound scary? Well, yes, it was, but boy did it ever help them. It’s so much better for an author to struggle and suffer with us than during a live interview. It got a lot easier for them too, and the method worked.
As we debriefed from the mock interview before trying it again, I would give some feedback including emphasizing the importance of being confident. There is no question the interviewer will know less about the subject than the author does. As for key messages, we would prioritize which points were most important and agree on which one or two points to try to work into an answer for each question.
Most importantly, I wanted to make certain that the author was not overly apprehensive about being interviewed. I have a list below for you to consider before you do any interviews.
Before any media interview, remember the following:
1. Don’t be afraid of the interview. Go in with confidence and a cheerful attitude. Most journalists, reporters, producers, and hosts are cordial people who are not out to embarrass you or trick you. They just want to get a story that will satisfy their editors, or a segment that will satisfy their executive producers and go home.
2. Don’t lie. Ever. Media folks don’t like it when their stories have to be corrected through no fault of their own. Be sure to tell the truth and provide accurate information to them.
3. Don’t “wing it.” It doesn’t work. Be prepared. If you don’t know the answer to a question either say so, or tell the media person that you will get back to him or her with an answer.
4. An interview is not a legal hearing. It’s okay to tell a journalist or reporter that some information is proprietary.
5. There really is no “off the record.” Just because a journalist puts away a notebook or turns off his or her phone recorder doesn’t mean the interview is over and you can say anything without it being used. In fact, I have a TV reporter friend who says that is when he really listens because often that is where the story is.
6. If a reporter makes a statement that you do not agree with, say so. Remaining quiet may give the impression that you agree.
7. Also, if a journalist makes a comment that is untrue, rather than pointing out how wrong he or she is, simply start your sentence with, “Actually…” and then go on to say what is true.
8. Don’t answer if you are not sure of a media person’s question. Always ask for a clarification.
9. Never say anything negative about an individual or company.
10. Don’t stray from the subject of the interview to comment on the day’s news. That might open up a new line of questioning.
11. It’s OK in the middle of a print interview to stop and ask the journalist if he or she is getting everything they want, or if there is a particular area they want you to go into. (Obviously, you can’t do this during a live camera or audio interview.)
12. If a journalist or reporter signals that the interview is over but you want to offer more information, it’s okay to ask the reporter for a few more minutes.
13. Journalists like statistics. Instead of just voicing an opinion, back it up with facts and figures.
14. Prior to departing, let the journalist know how you can be contacted if additional information is needed.
15. And most important, as I said earlier and it’s worth saying again, never lie to a journalist. Ever.
Those are just a few of the helpful tips you can glean through media training.
Media training is a great way to make sure you are on target with your messaging, you speak in a compelling manner, and that you deliver material and information in an influential way. It’s better to learn these skills prior to actually doing interviews rather than when you’re on the hot seat.
You want to be effective right out of the gate. Of course, you will learn from every interview you do, but you want to begin at a more advanced level, not a mediocre one.
To your success!
P.S. I have the pleasure of working with some of the best authors. Here are a few of them.