MEDIA TRAINING FOR AUTHORS - PART ONE - Television
Tonight we're going to get into dealing with the media. Many of the techniques I cover in this section will be helpful to you during radio and newspaper interviews too.
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.
You're 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 and radio requires new way of talking and selling.
Remember 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 segueways 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 or 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 question and answer section, 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:#1 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?
#2 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..."
#3 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
#4 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.
#5 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.
#6 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.
#7 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.
#8 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?
#9 The last tool is the sound bite. We've talked about this and many of you have worked out your own sound bites. Remember that when you hear a well-developed sound bite, it opens up the meaning beyond it the words used, it should be repeated often and leads 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, The
View etc. there are specific topics categories that really catch their
How can you take advantage of this information. Remember that your goal is to become a social or media comment waiting to happen.
I hope this has given you some insight into how television appearances
work and what you can do with them.