Posts Tagged ‘interview’

PR: 4 Reasons Reporters May Never Call Again

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Public Relations

Around 11am, a reporter sent me a YouTube link of a fight at an Arizona Cardinals football game. She wanted to know if a client was available for an on-camera interview to talk about limiting this kind of activity during the approaching Super Bowl that Arizona is hosting. The story was for the 5pm newscast, so she could interview the client at anytime.

The client needed time to put on a tie and shave, but he arranged the interview for 1pm. That’s about two hours after the reporter made her interview request.

If a reporter suddenly requested an interview within the next hour or two, could you accommodate the request? Do you have a tie, change of clothes or even a razor blade handy to make yourself to appear on air?

The reporter asked if the client could meet her near the stadium so it could be in the background. The stadium is across town from the client’s office, but he agreed to make the trek.

If a reporter prefers not to interview you at your office or current location, are you flexible enough to drive to another place if that location is halfway to Mars?

Around noon, the reporter emailed back, saying she needed to get another interview at 1pm. Could the client reschedule his interview for 2pm? He agreed.

If a reporter reschedules on you an hour before your interview, can you make the needed changes to your schedule?

When I was reporting, if someone said “no” to any of the above questions, I may have moved on to someone else who said “yes.” And because the second person was available and flexible, I may have never called the first person again. I compare this to a second-string quarterback who earns an opportunity to start, just keeps winning and downgrades the former starter indefinitely to the bench.

Media Training: Watch And Learn From Carney & McCain

Thursday, September 11th, 2014
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Here’s a segment of Senator John McCain and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney debating Obama’s foreign policy announcement. When conducting media training, we purposely interrupt people we interview to prevent them from finishing answers, gauge their responses and generally throw them off track. Media training participants often allow us to initially interrupt them and dictate the tone of the interviews. In this segment, we counted that Carney and McCain interrupted each other nine times. (If you’re keeping score, McCain eked out the interruption victory by a 5-4 margin.) Don’t let reporters or critics at an intense meeting interrupt you. Politely and assertively tell people you are happy to answer their questions or allow them to respond, but you want an opportunity to finish your thought. Networks may believe a parade of fierce interruptions makes for good TV. But by allowing someone to consistently interrupt and hand you a verbal beat down, audiences may assume you’re the moment’s loser even if facts proclaim you the winner.

Media Training: Joan Rivers Returns With Comic Style

Monday, July 14th, 2014

After walking away from a CNN interview she didn’t like, comedian Joan Rivers jokes about the incident with David Letterman. A media training lesson for politicians and businesses:  Don’t go into hiding after controversy. Note:  Joan uses some strong language in this video. It is not appropriate for all viewers. 

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Media Training: How Shooter Should’ve Handled Media

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Media Training

AZCentral’s Laurie Roberts wrote an opinion piece raising questions about the campaign and travel expenses of Arizona State Senator Don Shooter. Roberts wrote Shooter did not return several phone calls to discuss the questions.

In a video that accompanies Roberts’ story, a 12News reporter tells us he tried to talk to Shooter about the opinion piece. The 12News reporter says someone told him Shooter would be in a meeting. But the reporter says a few minutes later, he saw Shooter walk to his car. The reporter turned on his camera but says Shooter didn’t respond and drove away.

Any businessperson or politician facing scrutiny who hasn’t addressed the media’s questions shouldn’t be surprised if a reporter approaches him or her outside an office or in a parking lot. Your strategy for handling those situations should stretch beyond not responding or driving away. (We are assuming the reporters have accurately portrayed their interactions with Shooter.)

  • Answer the media’s questions. Explaining your side of the story on the phone or in person is much less awkward than reporters tracking you down at unexpected times or locations. Worse, the next time you face the media for a positive story, reporters may take advantage of that opportunity to address tough questions while the audience listens.
  • Before the interview, decide what one to three key messages you plan to focus on when addressing the questions. Keep circling back to your core points. Don’t delve into unnecessary details if possible. Use phrases such as, “The key issue is,” “It’s important to note that,” “Let me reiterate that.”
  • If necessary, explain you are working to improve and consider changes.
  • If you truly can’t comment, explain why. Maybe you need more time to get information. Maybe you don’t want to give out wrong information. Whatever phrases you provide, avoid no comment.

Be transparent. And that doesn’t mean looking at reporters through the windows of your vehicle.

Public Relations: Ways To Prepare Clients For Heartbreak

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013



The following steps may help clients better understand your efforts even when your hard work does not land media coverage.

  1. Document in detail your contacts with media outlets and share this information with clients. Provide this information as you make the contacts. Providing this information after the fact may simply seem like damage control.
  2. Even if reporters say they want to cover your story, remind clients others such as editors and producers are part of the decision-making process and could nix the whole idea.
  3. Even if media outlets schedule a shoot or interview, discuss the details and ask you to rearrange your schedule, remind clients how quickly things change (for example, breaking news) and little is guaranteed.
  4. Even if media outlets actually shoot a story or conduct an interview, remind clients this is still no guarantee the outlet will air or print the story. Clients may wonder why media outlets would waste such resources. Say, “Yep, that’s the business.”
  5. If clients click on websites or turn on the news and see no one shared their story, they may notice the media outlet went with some other “garbage” instead. Don’t try to make sense of the media’s decisions. Explain people aren’t necessarily smart or don’t always hold strong news judgement just because they’re in the media.
  6. A story a client expected to see on air may end up only on a station’s website. Stations sometimes call these stories “web exclusives,” but we conside that term mostly spin. When stations feel strongly about stories, they don’t save them only for websites. Yes, more and more people are getting their news from websites than from traditional newscasts, but try explaining that to a small business which sees spikes in phone calls when they’re on TV. Don’t B.S. clients. Sympathize with their disappointment and try to explain the benefits without exaggerating.
  7. In the end, explain you too are disappointed in the result. Don’t apologize unless you did something wrong or didn’t try hard. Hopefully, clients, like most others, will just blame the media.

Media Training: No Peeing Wearing Microphones

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

As a television reporter, I saw my share of microphone mishaps. Someone I was interviewing outside once walked into a building wearing our wireless microphone. We heard him tell someone we were wasting his time. Another time I was logging video. The video recorded a moment when I was sitting in a vehicle and the subject of our interview stood outside wearing a wireless mic. The camera recorded audio of him softly telling someone I seemed like a “prick.” The following example of forgetting to turn off a microphone happens more often than most of us would like to hear. At least this example made people laugh. The other possibility is making people really mad. With smartphones also acting as recording devices, staying alert of microphones when working with the media is more important than ever before.


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Media Relations Is Like Dating

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

A Los Angeles media relations vice president sent me a pitch that includes 20 paragraphs, one of several pitches I continue to receive one year and 11 months after I left my TV reporting job.

The email begins with two paragraphs addressed to me followed by an 18-paragraph report.

As a reporter, if I were interested in additional information, I would have requested from the media relations VP a report after her initial two-paragraph email seduced me. There is a reason people should not, during a first date, talk about themselves too much or give up too much of themselves after dinner. First, you do not want the person on the other side of the table to feel overwhelmed by your words. Second, if you give it up on a first date, you increase the chances someone might not come back for more. In fact, in this situation, when time permitted, I may have taken some tidbits of this release and tried to develop my own story locally without ever contacting the person who sent the pitch. Media relations often is similar to showing a little leg. Give them just enough to tantalize them and to want to call you back.

But this first date went sour for many more reasons. The 18-paragraph report is under the words “for immediate release.” I reported on television for 17 years and do not recall any times the words “for immediate release” played any practical role in the newsroom. I have raised this point more than once before, sparking a contentious debate among public relations professionals. If someone sent me a news release, I assumed it was for immediate release and continue to not understand why including those words is necessary. I conclude that including the words “for immediate release” is an old-school practice that, in my experience, serves no practical purpose for my former colleagues or me. As always, I am open to other points of view. However none of the previous debates I have sparked has given me reasons to change my opinion.

The first two paragraphs do not explain why this story would specifically romance a Phoenix audience. The paragraphs also do not include the names of a local person or business to court for the story.

The pitch says the author of the included report is available to talk, but the release does not explain why I should interview him instead of someone local. In fact, I actually interviewed local experts on similar topics more than two years ago.

The 20 paragraphs include a slew of statistics and percentages and I find myself willing only to skim all the information. Considering the number of emails some reporters and producers receive each day, most of them probably would not get past the first or second paragraph after seeing the length of the pitch.

Journalists willing to wade through the thicket of information might actually find ideas for interesting stories. This is especially true for trade media. Unfortunately, if the media relations vice president is hoping to attract the attention of a larger audience outside the industry, her pitch will likely often miss its target because how she dressed it. It reads more like a research report than something meant to woo journalists in a timely fashion.

There will not be a second date.

Media Relations: Channel 3 Interviews Dr. Lee Weinstein On What Teeth Tell Us About Health

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Some Media Are Like Men Staring At Women

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

I know instantly when I’m talking to a man and his eyes begin to drift to the side like a vehicle starts to drift when its driver is on a cell phone. Often, the man is processing the attractiveness of a woman passing by. This phenomenon takes place even if I’ve engaged this person in a conversation about business, sports or world peace. It doesn’t take much to get distracted.

News stories are eye candy for journalists. For example, someone at a media outlet sent me a message about my pitch:  “They like your idea, should I give them your number?” But no one called.

Another reporter wrote me, “Hi Keith! We’d like to talk to your expert about —–. Could you please provide a name & number?  Thanks!”

When the reporter didn’t call that day, the client said, “FYI, no word yet from —-.”

A reporter actually called the next day, but the point is clients often don’t get the media’s mentality. For example, it was not uncommon for a TV station to give me a story and then re-assign me two more times within an hour. This is especially exasperating when I started calling people for interviews, hung up the phone and learned someone changed my story.

So consider some media like that man who finally gave you time for an important discussion. Just when you think you’ve sealed the deal, something else walks in and distracts him. The media like sexy stories and your hot idea is just one nice pair of legs away from being yesterday’s news.

Media Training: Prepare For A Quickie

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013


The TV anchor’s last question during our client’s live interview was a complicated one. And the anchor’s body language indicated to me time was running out almost immediately after he asked the question.

Our client texted me, “I told him off air that it was kind of boring and technical. Evidently he still wanted to ask, even though there wasn’t much time. I couldn’t stop midway through my answer or it wouldn’t have made sense.”

Toward the top of his answer on air, he said, “Very briefly …” Those words indicated he understood time was tight.

The anchor even raised his pen, reinforcing what I might as well translate as, “I know I just asked you the most complicated question of this interview, but it is time to wrap things up buddy.”

Our client: “I saw him raise his pen so I knew we were out of time.”

The entire answer to a complex question was about 20 seconds. Sometimes you unexpectedly need a quickie.