For weeks I’ve been giving you (hopefully) helpful tips to make your job a bit easier when it comes to making your clients more ‘media-friendly.’ From pre-pitch to post-interview, my goal was to give you some insight from the perspective of someone who has been responsible for booking and interviewing thousands of authors, experts, CEO’s etc for nearly thirty years. If you’ve spent any amount of time on this forum no doubt you should have an abundant amount of practical knowledge at your fingertips. But after reading and re-reading dozens of articles on this subject, I discovered that I never simply answered the question stated above. For that I am sorry and I will attempt to do so now.
When I am asked what executive is the best example of a great guest, without hesitation my answer is always Matt Silverman. Matt Silverman is the President of the Tampa Bay Rays and he will always be a welcome guest. It certainly helps that Matt is genuinely a nice person who is passionate about his work but he has a level of professionalism and understanding of the purpose of the media that is sadly lacking in others of his stature. In my interviews with Matt, I’ve distilled his skills as a media guest to five general points that any client can develop:
1 – Be Comfortable: Do you remember the scene in “Broadcast News” when Albert Brooks’ character was doing a live TV report and he was so nervous he was drenched in sweat? It was only hysterical because it was happening to someone else. Now, re-create that same scene and put your boss in Brooks’ position. That could be a career-ender for you. Nobody wants to look/sound bad and when you are uncomfortable everybody notices. Some people are naturals in front of the media, others not so much.
The only way I can tell you how to get your client over that hump is practice, practice, practice. Put them in an uncomfortable place in a conference room, stick a camera in front of their face and start asking questions. Then make them watch it! I’m warning you, your client is going to hate every minute of it. Your job is to point out what they did well and manage their weak points. Teach them to talk to a camera lens like they’re talking to a friend. If you need help, call me. I’ve done mock interviews for dozens of clients and through my company (Mahaffey Creative,) I can even conduct live radio interviews that we can critique. These skills are like muscles, they only get stronger when you work out with them.
While we’re on this subject, there is a question you need to ask your client: Do you even want to be there? Being with a guest who is only there because they are obligated to be there is like pulling teeth with tweezers. If your client feels comfortable handing off media duties to someone else that can do a better job, DO IT!
2 – Be Confident: Know why you are there and know why you are the person who needs to deliver the message. This is when you as the PR person become the cheerleader. Bolster their confidence and remind them why they’re there. If they’ve risen to this position, they likely have the credentials to back them up, use them.
3 – Be Prepared: The worst feeling in the world is being asked a question that you have no answer to. You immediately go from articulate spokesperson to babbling idiot. Remember, there are no do-over’s in live media. Make sure your client knows the message you are trying to communicate. Nag them like you’re their mom!
4 – Be Relevant: This circles back to previous blogs where I explained that the media’s purpose of having you on is because you have something important to share with their audience. Make sure your client understands the audience’s point of view and addresses their comments accordingly. Remind them to keep their comments simple. DON’T TALK ABOVE THE AUDIENCES’ HEAD. We affectionately refer to this as ‘dumbing it down.’
5 – Be Entertaining: As strange as it may seem, this is probably the most important factor. You can bobble the four other points but if you are an entertaining guest, no matter what the subject, you stand a much better shot at coming back. One of the most engaging people I ever met was a coroner from St. Louis. Her subject matter (a grisly high-profile murder) was very serious but what made her a great guest was she had an uncanny ability to address her information in an entertaining manner (remember “entertaining” doesn’t necessarily mean “funny”.)
The best part about this point is that if your client is prepared, relevant, confident and comfortable, being entertaining will almost come automatically. Your job is to set their mood going in and remind them “No big deal, it’s only national TV!”
Let’s talk a little about egos. I’ll say it, every person you have to deal with on this level has one and many are out of control. I have dealt with a number of guests who demand that their ego be recognized and feared when they are in my studio. While a healthy ego can be a good thing, it can kill you if you are trying to become a media darling.
The really smart guests I’ve dealt with understand that while they are geniuses at whatever spins their world, when it comes to being in front of the media, there is always opportunity to learn. Great guests will always ask their interviewers for feedback and seek ways to improve this skill. Great guests will almost always go back and watch their last appearance and find ways to improve.
Bottom line: No matter what you do, the only thing that counts is what happens when the microphones are hot and the cameras are on. Hopefully, these five simple steps from an extraordinary gentleman will help you help your clients become media superstars. Go Rays.
Skip Mahaffey in an award-winning broadcaster, Media Coach/Consultant and Author of Adventures With My Father: Childhood Recollections of Divorce, Dysfunction and the Summer of Love. Skip is available for consultation by calling 813-388-1035 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org