It's no secret that radio, television and print interviews or features can do wonders for your brand. Accessing the media is one of the most powerful ways to help grow your business. In our industry, an author's appearance on Good Morning America, The Ellen Show, or the Oprah Winfrey Network could make an international bestseller overnight. Here are some little-known media tips that can help your own business get the exposure it needs, based on my experience in the publishing business:
Preparing Your Pitch
When pitching to producers and editors in the media, and especially when you're live on the air, the most important thing for you to consider is the difference between your message and your hook. These are two completely separate, yet equally important, elements of your pitch. The product, service, idea or charity you are selling is represented by your message and is often abstract, while your hook is short, concise and very concrete. It's the compelling and juicy connection that gets you booked on radio and TV shows.
When I wrote my first book, Your Mailbox Is Full, my target market was teenagers. I approached media producers, editors and hosts of major radio shows and told them I wanted to talk about how teens can be successful using the key tools, strategies and principles I included my new book. But there was one problem: nothing about teaching teens to be successful was juicy enough for a producer to put on the air. You see, I was pitching my message instead of my hook. Your message is what will make a difference to your listener, but your hook is what gets the listener to care about your message.
After some extensive media training, I went back to the producers of those same shows with a new pitch: "I am one of the leading teen success coaches in the country. I bet you didn't know that calls to teen suicide hotlines have increased over 20 percent since the start of the recession. Don't you think your listeners would be interested in knowing how to spot the signs in their teens and how to get them back on track for success?"
The response was completely different. With my first message-based pitch, no one wanted me on their show, but by creating a hook that attached a current issue to my message, I was booked left and right on radio shows throughout the country.
Acing the Interview
Once you're on the air, there are some key points to keep in mind. Most interviews are only between three and five minutes, although some radio interviews may last 30-60 minutes if you're lucky.
1. Keep it interesting. It's important to understand that a media outlet is a for-profit business and makes money via advertising. In order for them to keep their advertisers, they need to keep their ratings and viewership as high as possible. This means that there is nothing more important to them than preventing their viewers/listeners from changing the channel to one of their competitors'. Hosts of credible shows won't hesitate to throw you off the air if you can't keep up with the pace or provide enticing enough content to keep the listener's attention. You can see why it's absolutely critical that you front-load your most important points, not just because you only have three to five minutes, but because you can easily get kicked off the air if you aren't a powerful interviewee.
2. Practice. You never know when an interviewer will ask a follow-up question or a question you're not expecting. Don't let this intimidate you, as interviewing is a learned skill. It takes practice to become a powerful interviewee, which is why I always recommend you practice interviewing on online radio shows and small market shows.
3. Prepare for tough questions. You should also be willing to answer the most hot-button questions your audience has, because those questions could potentially stand in the way of people purchasing your product, service or idea.
I was 18 years old when I launched my first book for teens, and I knew that the first thing people were going to think when they saw me on the air was "Who is this kid, and why should I listen to him?" I knew that the first major objection people were going to have was about my age, so I told the interviewer to ask me about it. My first interview question was, "So Justin, you look so young, what gives you the authority to teach teens about success?"
4. Speak English, not professional jargon. This is especially important for health practitioners, scientists, financial experts, et al. Match the language you use to the show you are featured on. If you are on Larry King Live talking about the current financial market in the United States, you don't want to use language that only people in your field will understand.
5. Include success stories whenever possible. People are affirmed by the validation of their peers. The most important part of rehashing success stories is to tell them as concisely and powerfully as possible. Hit the most important points, and tell the world how your customers' lives have changed after purchasing your product, service or idea.