If you want to speak with the media, then you need media training.
Never confuse a reporter for a friend.
This conflation is often the first — and most damaging — mistake that people make when engaging with the press. After all, it’s tempting to get chummy with a reporter. He’s a professional listener who’s eager to quote you. In the glare of the spotlight, you get seduced by his charm and let your guard down.
But here’s the thing. Reporters have a job to do: To serve up the news in a way that’s interesting. You, too, have a job: To promote your side of the story. Inevitably, those two missions will clash.
How I learned to stop worrying and love phone calls.
Early in my career, I hated phone calls. They were time-consuming and inefficient. Why can’t you just email me, I’d often wonder?
My aversion was so acute that not only did I exclude my phone number from my email signature; I also recorded a message for my voice mail that said something like this: “I rarely check these messages; please email me.”
In short, I viewed Alexander Graham Bell’s invention as an unnecessary evil.
Today, I know better. I know the phone is not a burden but an opportunity. I recognize that for a relationship to thrive, you must do more than swap written words; you need to hear the other person’s voice.
Always have a conversation before you provide your price.
Recently, a prospective client emailed me. The subject line of her message said it all: “Need a Media Trainer.”
As someone who delivers media-training workshops, I was delighted. So we scheduled a call.
Ten minutes into the conversation, however, it turned out that she didn’t want a workshop on how to talk with reporters. She wanted a workshop on how to talk with an audience. In other words, she wanted a presentation trainer.
To her, the difference was a mere nuance. To me, these were two entirely different topics. Sure, they were related and there was some overlap, but only in the same way that Fiat and Ferrari are both cars.
Want to make your op-ed pitch-worthy? Then make sure you address these four essential elements.
As a ghostwriter, I’m often asked to draft op-eds. Yet contrary to what you might think, writing is the easy part; it’s the other stuff that’s hard.
Perhaps the hardest part is what happens even before I set pen to paper. For example, it’s one thing to have a great idea; it’s another to convey that passion with precision.
So the next time someone asks for help with an op-ed, take a step back and first address the following four issues. (If you’re feline-friendly, you can remember this formula as “CATS.”)
One tiny tweak can make a big difference.
Whenever I deliver my workshop on LinkedIn, I always encounter pushback on the same point: How to write your headline on the social network.
What’s a LinkedIn headline? It’s the line directly under your name — on your individual profile page, in the sidebar of people similar to you, and in search results. After your name and headshot, it’s the thing that people view most.
Yet most people fail to exploit this opportunity. Instead, they fall back on LinkedIn’s default settings, which copy and paste your job title and employer into this critical field.
Résumés should show off your skills, not shotgun them.
In writing a résumé, many people include a “skills” section. Here, they cram together “hard” skills, such as programming languages or software, and “soft” skills, such as “conflict resolution” or “adaptability.”
Let me be frank: This is a waste of space. Instead of ticking off vague notions like “Excel” or “Photoshop,” tell your audience how you used these programs. Get specific.
A tale of two emails.
Sometimes an email is just an email. Other times, it’s an X ray of someone’s character. Here’s a perfect example of the difference.
Recently, a friend emailed me. He asked if I would forward the résumé of a friend of his to my clients that have intern programs. I did so happily.
Both people I emailed replied within a few hours (after all, they work at PR agencies). Yet while they basically said the same thing — “You’re too late” — the tones they used were strikingly divergent. Here’s what they wrote:
Visual aids make writing easier and reading more enjoyable.
Smart writers know a secret. They know that what you write — your choice of words — is only half of any project. The other half is how those words look — everything from your font size to your margin widths. Packaging and presentation matter more than most people appreciate.
This is one reason stores like Gucci and Whole Foods can charge a premium: The layout of their bricks and mortar gives rise to a certain appearance and ambiance. By contrast, while I have nothing against Marshalls or Giant Food, when it comes to aesthetics, their displays just can’t compete.
Because looking good on paper is not the same thing as being good.
When hiring a professor, nearly every college uses commonly agreed-upon criteria. Among these, perhaps the most important is whether the applicant has a graduate degree.
On one hand, credentials are a critical part of a school’s brand. Given that students are coughing up an arm and a leg for today’s tuition, it’s helpful when a school can boast that “every single one of our faculty holds an advanced degree.” Indeed, this percentage contributes to a school’s ranking.
This argument makes sense, especially from a marketing perspective. Yet it’s less compelling when applied to adjunct, rather than tenure-track, professors — i.e., those who teach as a sideline. We adjuncts typically have another job that pays the bills; we don’t teach for the money, but because we love doing it.
What PR agencies can learn from news organizations.
The hard drive of every PR pro is crammed full of them. The inbox of every reporter is groaning from them. Even as pundits predict their passing, the market for them in Google AdWords is competitive and costly.
What are they? News releases. Unloved but ubiquitous, the release dates back to the founding of our industry. Of course, that was in 1906, when you needed a full-length novel to capture the public’s attention. A few things have changed since then, yet the staple of our industry resists modernization. No wonder every year brings forth those declarations of death.
But the rumors are exaggerated. The news release may be dying, but like Charles Foster Kane’s Inquirer, it still has a lot of life left—especially if the SEC has any say in the matter.
In fact, we can resuscitate our old friend with a variety of tactical tweaks. The trick: we need to stop thinking like a flack and start thinking like a hack—specifically, like editors at today’s buzziest news outlets.