My first introduction to dealing with the media came while playing college athletics. Once a year the director of the sports information office would come to our team meeting with tips for dealing with the media. The No. 1 rule she told us: Nothing is ever off the record.
Well, years have now passed since those initial lessons and I have learned a little more about handling interviews, press requests, and the value of free press. So here are some tips to help you better use and build your brand through traditional media interviews.
1. Recognize the Value of Free Press
One of the most polarizing figures in the U.S. today is Donald Trump. Love him or not almost everyone in the U.S. knows of him. Stephen Colbert mocked Trump by depicting him as an orange wearing a toupee. John Stewart lampoons him every time Trump appears on Fox news challenging the President's birth certificate.
So, do you think Trump cares? Absolutely. He loves it! As the old adage goes, there's no such thing as bad press. Sure he may have mastered The Art Of the Deal, but what he is truly spectacular at is garnering free press.
Herein lies lesson one: Seek and learn to receive free press. It's better than paying for advertising.
2. Have Something to Say
But Trump only gets the free press because he has something to say. Lately it's been about aborted Presidential runs and moot issues concerning the President's birth certificate. (What do you want? To vacate his presidency and retroactively declare McCain the President for the past four years?) The issues may seem trivial but one thing remains constant: He has something to say and when he says it the media reports on it.
Herein lies lesson two: Free press is available if you have something interesting to say.
3. Step Up to the Mic
You have something interesting to say. So what? Why would the press want to report on you. Because they need content. They are in the business of reporting on things they think their viewers will find interesting.
It doesn't matter what you do there is probably a magazine or newspaper that is interested in what you have to say. Find them. Say something interesting. Get free press.
Herein lies lesson three: When you have something to say step up to the mic and say it.
4. Speak in Sound Bites
But when you step up to the mic remember to keep it crisp. No one likes a rambler.
What do I mean? Have you ever watch Letterman? Stewart? Leno? For the most part their guests are pros and work with the host in a nice cadence that produces a wonderful back and forth interview. But have you ever watched one that just seemed strange? Often that is because the guest does not allow himself or herself to be led by the host and simply blurts out prepared babble promoting whatever they are there to pitch. The irony is that when they ramble and do not interact with the host it's simply not a good interview.
Herein lies lesson four: Speak in relatively short and concise sound bites allowing your interviewer to interact with you during the process. In the end it makes for a much better product for the viewer or reader of the story.
5. The Mic is Always On
With social media a bad sound bite can go viral in minutes. From Mitt strapping his pooch to the roof of the car to the President's gaff about the economy being alright, if you say it someone is always listening, always recording. The mic is always on.
Who can forget Rev. Jackson's infamous comments about then Senator Obama during the 2008 campaign trail? If only he would have remembered this simple rule: the mic is always on.
This is especially true if you are ever wired up with a mic for a TV interview. They may tell you it is off but that only means the feed is not live to the audience right now. It's still on. And if you say something you should not someone is always listening. Just ask Jesse.
And herein lies lesson five: The mic is always on. Respect it and don't get caught saying something you will regret.