Back to PR for Writers
You recall how I mentioned those three key message points. Well, they're
important in broadcast too, but a study at UCLA revealed that 93% of the
message an audience receives from television is from your nonverbal cues
and attitude when you're in front of the camera. Your image and perception
it creates is as vital as your verbal message. This is not to say that
the words you say during your interview aren't important-they are. In
essence, that 7% is the engine that drives the interview.
This is why professional trainers suggest you wear age appropriate clothing.
Avoid flashy jewelry, Small prints and white which don't look good on
camera. Primary colors tend to work best. When you are working with television,
it requires a new way of talking and selling. The reductive process of
the media is like talking to the wrong end of a megaphone. You need to
condense, condense, condense-which is where your three tightly-worded
key points will be the most helpful.
Let's say you're lucky enough to score an appearance on Oprah. Since
her show format usually includes several guests each time as well as comments
and questions from the audience, you can expect about four minutes if
you're lucky. With Oprah's intro, comments and segways to commercials
you'll get about 2 min 45 sec. of actual time to talk. This gives you
an understanding of why it's so critical to distill your message down
and repeat it often.
To give you an idea of how the process works, a television show traditionally
has gotten a press kit from your publicist. Those materials are received
by a segment producer, who's usually a female in her 20's. She takes the
material and goes through it. The press kit is the blueprint for the interview,
since they don't usually read the book. The press kit should give q and
a, the focus for the audience and an introduction of you. The segment
producer will then create questions for the talent on cue cards or the
little 4X6 blue cards you see them holding. She'll probably go through
the book, picking out interesting things. The talent gets this maybe the
night before, more often that day. You'll arrive and wait in what's known
as the green room, which is usually a vending machine stocked waiting
area. The only info they have is your press kit, which is a good thing
since you put it together. You'll then be brought in live onto the show.
You'll get about two minutes on air, then there will be a cut for a commercial.
When they come back from commercial, you'll be re- introduced and talked
to for another forty-five seconds, then you're gone.
Your goal in those precious few seconds should be to get control of the
interview. You don't control the questions, but you sure as hell control
the answers. You're going to need to control the venue to be able to get
your points across in that 2 min. 45 sec. window of opportunity. If you're
busy answering the questions the way they're asked, you're going to waste
about two minutes of your time.
You can control the interview with the following tools:
- Know your key message. This is your most important tool. Ask yourself
what is your primary core message point? It should be your overarching
theme or thought you want to leave behind. Every sample you give, every
message, must key back to your main point no matter what. Every question
that you get should work back toward that main point in the answer.
How can you do this?
- The two step. Take the question and make it work for you. Directly
respond to the question the reporter asks, but instead of stopping there
you change the subject. Fred Astaire was a master at this. Whenever
he was asked which leading lady he enjoyed dancing with most he'd answer,
"Well, gee I can't answer that, but what I can tell you is what
they all had in common..." The chances of returning to the original
question are slim, because you've answered it directly even if it wasn't
the answer your host was expecting. Tom Alderman, a professional media
trainer for television in southern California calls this the Fred Astaire
two step. Some additional two step phrases you can use are:
"That's important, but point is..."
"I'm glad you asked that."
"The real issue here is..."
"That's true, but the way I see it is..."
"That's an interesting question."
The two step is a phrase that validates what has been asked of you,
but take the conversation where you want it to go.
- Go back to your writing roots. We all know that it's the details that
give a book life. It's not a car parked next to a tree, it's a run-down
station wagon with a blown-out tire by an old twisted oak. Global statements
and big promises aren't going to get through to the media's audience.
If you say romance is big business, no one is going to get it. It's
not going to connect with your audience through the reductive process
on an emotional level. Tell them that romance is a billion dollar a
year industry and without it bookstores couldn't afford to stock other
fiction genres and you'll get their attention. You are creating emotional
Velcro by using details. It's like going back to good story telling.
Give them the details. Let the specific lead to the general comment
you're trying to make, so that when you tell us the general theme there's
a face to remember.
- Tool number four is repetition. On television, what you see appears
to be an interesting conversation. It's not. They're creating a segment
for their audience and you're selling. It's your opportunity to lay
out your key message. In general the first question is a soft ball,
meaning something easy to answer like do you like your work, where do
you live etc., unless the talent has an attitude. They want to know
that you're going to lead them. In television and radio it is critical
to repeat yourself more than you would in normal conversation. This
is especially critical in a taped interview. You'll need to repeat your
key message points as many times as you can so that some of it remains
when they edit the tape. In Clinton's second inaugural address he used
the phrase Bridge to the 21st century 28 times. His speechwriters wanted
to make sure that no matter how television news cut the speech for a
sound bite, that message would come across.
- Tool number five is the alignment technique. When the question you
are asked carries with it a genuine concern, you don't dismiss it. The
first place you go is to validate the concern. By doing this you are
creating an emotionally receptive platform. The audience wants to know
that you get it; that you are a concerned, sensitive human being who
responds to others. By responding to the emotions of the interviewer's
question (but not necessarily answering it directly) you give the audience
the sense that you are sympathetic.
- Pauses are a powerful ally. When in an interview, take appropriate
pauses before or after a key thought or word to give it emphasis. That
brief lapse in time signals people on a subconscious level to pay attention
to what you have said or are going to say.
- Tool number seven is the descriptive scene. Many times you're going
to be asked what is your favorite scene in the book or an important
scene. Choose a grabbing scene that distills the flavor of the entire
book and gives the details viewers can hold onto and remember.
- It's as important for you to ask questions as answer them. Before
you go on camera take time to ask questions of the reporter or host.
What is the reporter like? What types of questions do they have? How
knowledgeable are they about the subject or industry?
- The last tool is the sound bite. A well thought-out sound bite is
a reductive phrase that opens up much more than just the words themselves.
Johnny Cochran's phrase, if is doesn't fit you must acquit was a prime
example of a sound bite. Not only was he using it to key the audience
in on the rush to judgment, but in another context he meant specifically
that if the glove didn't fit, neither did the crime. When you hear a
well-developed sound bite, it opens up the meaning beyond it the words
used. It doesn't have to rhyme like Cochran's sound bite but it does
need to be repeated often and lead back to your key messages.
As I stated before, you need to drawn your audience in by answering a
problem, pointing to an opportunity or exploding a myth.
If you're aiming to get on daytime talk shows such as Oprah, Leeza, Rosie
etc. there are specific topics categories that really catch their attention.
The highest rated daytime talk show topics are in increasing importance:
How can you take advantage of this information? Become a social or media
comment waiting to happen. Sure you are a romance writer, but as a romance
writer don't you spend your life creating successful, monogamous relationships
for characters who have similar problems and insecurities as people in real
life? What kinds of self-help advice can you offer? What analysis can you
give on why marriages fail? How to tell when your relationship is in trouble
or what things make an old flame attractive again?
- Home and family
- Health topics
- Children - "how to"
- And number one: Self-help - The audience wants to learn something
but are not intellectual and want down to earth advice.