BY TJ Walker
At some point, if you really want to reach the masses, you must master the whole media game. This means you have to be not a good, but a great media interview. You must become an excellent industry spokesperson. There isn’t time to go into all of the intricacies of being a great media spokesperson in this book (I have written several books on this subject, including the classic, media Training a-Z). Suffice it to say that you should be watching and studying anyone you admire in your field and anyone you admire in other fields to see how they present themselves to the media.
There are many aspects of dealing with the media, but most skills come down to four specific areas:
- Making sure you look and sound your best for any interview, especially TV and radio interviews. There is a whole science to knowing how to sit, stand, and move, plus what to wear and not wear to look good on TV. You must learn this.
- Learn how to shape a 3-part, 30-second message. Most experts try to convey 50 messages in five minutes—this is too much!!! You must learn how to create messages that really cut to the chase. This isn’t dumbing things down. Instead, this is using your intellect to save other people time.
- How to answer questions in a media interview. This is not like answering questions in any other aspect of life. The very same skills that make you a good talker when answering questions from students, clients, customers and colleagues will make you a horrible media interview. A whole new way of thinking and talking must be learned in order to gain control over your message when you are interviewed.
- Finally, you must learn how to speak in sound bites. It’s not enough to have good substance when speaking to the media. You must be able to package your ideas in a style that makes them usable to the media. Reporters must be able to take a bite out of your sound in 8 to 15 second increments to make a major point or tell a story. Since all sound bites come from one of ten speech patterns this is an easy skill to learn, but it’s not a skill taught in classroom in any school. You must learn the black magic of speaking in sound bites.
Finally, if you really want to be great at dealing with the media, you must do two things:
- Practice on video for every major media interview you do. And
- Review the videos of your media interviews in exquisite detail. It’s OK not to be great in your first 10 interviews or even your first 100, as long as you figure out a way to learn from your mistakes and get just a little bit better each time on a consistent basis.
It doesn’t matter if you ever aspire to host your own talk show or not, you must become a great media interviewee. Isaac Asimov was a brilliant writer and thinker, but he was also smart enough to live right across the street from the CBS TV network and he cultivated great relationships with the staff so that he could be a frequent guest and substitutive guest, thus reaching millions of potential readers on a regular basis.
Become a media pro—it is the gateway to your success.