Thursday, September 11, 2008

Media Tips from an Insider

Our world is becoming more and more media savvy and it’s now becoming imperative that each of us has a handle on how to deal with video or TV interviews. They may run on YouTube or on our intranet sites, or on local or national TV. But more and more, companies understand their need to stand up and get ready for their next appearance. It can mean millions in your pocket if you succeed, and a catastrophe if you don’t.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been on many sides of the media. I’ve done a little or a lot of every bit of it – from anchoring, reporting and producing to hosting and to being a guest. I’ve been on everything from ABC’s 20/20, Dateline and The Today Show to QVC. I’ve come across all sorts of producers, hosts and bookers. It’s always good to have an edge so here are some of the tips I’ve shared with the CEOs, authors, experts and spokespeople I’ve coached.

Find out as much as you can about the host before you go on the air. There is absolutely NO guarantee that you’ll be able to even say hi to the host of your segment before you go on the air if it’s live, but there is usually about a minute before the cameras come on that you can actually change the flow of the energy of the interview by commenting about something personal to the host of your segment. For instance, if you know that they’ve supported Breast Cancer Awareness as their personal cause, a quick mention of it will ingratiate you to the host who may or may have not taken a hard line with you before the interview. These people are pros and can go with the flow, and that is one way for YOU to be in charge! IF you are booking the segment yourself, do the research on all of the reporters/anchors bios in advance because you do not know who will actually conduct the in studio interview.
Know your message inside and out. If you have something controversial to say, you’re probably going to be more of interest to the media in the first place. However, you are also more of a target for the anchor to show you up. They can and will pull tricks on you at the last possible minute if they’re personally not in favor of your position. I’ve seen it happen numerous times. They act extremely passive or friendly to the guest before air time and the second the camera goes on, their energy triples which is enough to make anyone jump out of their seat, and then they are on the attack. These are things that a media expert grows accustomed to, however, for a newbie, it’s extremely intimidating.
With your message, drill in your head three main points that you’d like to get across. It’s quite possible that your interviewer will not follow the original questions that you MUST provide to the producer of the segment. If you’re an author, something else might catch the attention of the anchor that may go down a totally different path. Keep in mind, you are there to inform, to educate or to influence behavior, so your goal will be to bring your answer back to your main three points. Watching political candidates will give you a great model of how to do that. They often dodge difficult questions and pound home the points THEY want to get. For the listener, this can be frustrating, but for the guest whose job it is to use that 2 minutes as effectively as possible, it is imperative that he gets the sound bites in that he or she desires.
Realize that if you’re hemming and hawing for one to two seconds in the beginning of the segment that the anchor probably will cut you off. Their job is to keep the interview engaging and informative and if the guest gets their brain stuck looking for words, the anchor will act as if the guest just said the most brilliant thing in the world yet cut you off immediately. This is why you must know your message and push it through from the beginning.
Live TV can throw anyone off if you’re not aware of all of the distractions that are likely to occur. When the camera turns on you, all you focus on is YOUR MESSAGE. It doesn’t matter if there is a bomb going off in the studio or someone starts yelling. Your job is to continue with what you are saying. This takes practice in front of a camera with obstacles happening to intend on cutting you off or tripping you up. This is not what an anchor wants of course, however, no one can control whether or not the next segment has to do with a crying baby, a yelping dog or a machine that goes off at the wrong moment.
Your job is to bring value! When a reporter starts interviewing you, you need to be thinking about delivering information that will be of value to your customers, and NOT be thinking about promoting your product or your services. If you’re good at what you do, people will find you and the producers will provide your resources to their viewers. Do NOT promote yourself in any way unless it’s for a cause and at the end of the segment or if you are asked to mention your website or phone numbers.
Look at the reporter or the host. How many times have you seen “media professionals” take over from the host and start to talk to the camera? That is an absolute NO NO! If you are the host, then you can look in the camera, however if you are there as the guest, be respectful of the rightful host and look at the host and NOT THE CAMERA!
Be clear what your intention for the audience to do is. For instance, do you want them to take action? Why? How can they do it? If your job is to influence them, then you must appeal to both sides of their brain when doing it. Do not just give an opinion. Give a statement of fact along with your opinion backed up by hard core stats. This will make you sound more prepared and articulate. Additionally, request that people take action and give them easy steps, 1, 2, and 3.
Get your point across quickly. This is likely one of the most difficult things to do. Many people are not trained to articulate their main points in 20-30 seconds but when dealing with TV, you are shooting for the pithy SOUND BITE. These sound bites can be 10-15 seconds long so it would be wise to write these in advance and practice accordingly.
Work with a media coach. This is your best chance to become more familiar with the tactics and techniques used by some of the anchors. Some people are fine when standing before an audience, yet once the camera turns on, they freeze. A media coach will size you up from your clothes to your message, and they’ll engage you in different situations over and over so when the real interview happens, you will be an old pro.

No one knows when a producer or reporter might be calling them for a tip or a statement. On the other hand, if you’re seeking press, it’s best to be prepared for whatever comes along. Regardless, we are now a media driven society, and its time to step up to the plate, smile and give it your best shot. Hopefully you’ll be prepared and not strike out, but strike gold!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Why We Love Sarah Palin!

We seem to be living in an exciting time! On the one hand, many families are feeling the economic crunch, struggling to meet the bills, and stressed over not having enough at the end of each month. It’s now hitting middle America and many of the people who have never had to struggle financially before are now watching their budgets.

On the other hand, we have a political race that is causing coffee talk even with the most non political among us. People seem to now know which side of the fence they walk after viewing both of the political conventions.

All of the candidates have many wonderful qualities and stand for important issues. Each one of them has had many trials and triumphs and have led well in their given environments. From Obama’s miraculous rise to fame almost overnight and running an amazingly successful campaign to the long standing political stable, Joe Biden who beat brain cancer, to John McCain and the inner strength to defend America as a very young man and to survive the torture he endured makes us all want to be better people. They’re all individually inspiring!

But to see our newest rock star, Sarah Palin take the stage before all of America that night, when she looked right in the camera and right into my eyes, and told us parents who have special needs children that she’ll be a friend and an ADVOCATE in the WHITE HOUSE for us? I was sold!

My political background was determined by the first job I got on Capital Hill. I had to decide whether I was a Republican or a Democrat and because my family was split right down the middle, I could have gone either way. But I ended up getting a great job on the Subcommittee of Criminal Law on the Judiciary Committee and working for Republican Senator Paul Laxalt from Nevada. I loved the entertainment factor of working on Capital Hill and meeting all of the celebrities and seeing them fight passionately for causes. I didn’t love the policy work or the creating of laws. I loved the people doing these wonderful things! It’s no wonder I got out of designing policy and got in the promotion field of Celebrities and Causes.

Even a few months ago I was on the fence. I love Hillary Clinton, and I like Obama! I see the crisis in America and I understand why people want change. I also knew John McCain was a war hero. And as a proud American living in NYC on the dreadful day of 9/11, I knew how important the military is and how we need to continue the fight to keep our country safe.

But everything and I mean EVERYTHING changed for me the second Sarah Palin was nominated. It was if something inside of me shifted. Here she is, a young and attractive and in shape young mom of young kids, is running a state effectively, standing up to the big boys and winning!!! For each one of those accomplishments I look at her in awe. I’ve gone up against the good ol’ boy network, and even though I consider myself a strong woman, I wasn’t able to win and I opted to go another direction. But not Sarah! She took it like a pro and I love it that she continues to share that story to inspire all of us to fight for positive change like she did.

Then look at her! She’s gorgeous!!! And she’s not trying to use her beauty to get anywhere, but behind those glasses and her hair that she wears up, is a very attractive woman. Think about the hours she’s had to work at it based on having all of those kids. Yes, then there’s the kids. She’s got five of them. And to hear that she delivered a baby the day after giving a speech and had to fly home? I almost ran to the computer to start a fan club!!

She’s got a successful and cute husband who she calls “my guy” and a daughter who opted not to get an abortion when she probably could have. She admits the family is a normal family and yet, when they held that darling baby up and he’s a Downs baby? It was the thing that gave me the deep compassion for Sarah as a woman. I know the struggles of facing an unhealthy pregnancy and it’s a very emotionally difficult time to know that your child might suffer through life. Yet, Sarah worked all the way through her pregnancy and now has a beautiful child to share with the world.

All of those things together have touched me deeply. I’m inspired when I look at her and think about how mentally tough she has had to be, by enduring against all of the obstacles she’s had in her life. She gracefully dealt with the crisis of alerting the world about her 17 year old daughters unplanned pregnancy without crying and being dramatic or apologetic. Because of Sarah’s example, I want to quit complaining about getting up early to work out, having to cook home made everything because we have a special diet in our home, and also having to deal with the struggles we’ve had with having a special needs child on the Autistic Spectrum. I know I am not alone when struggling to stay awake to finish my work and know I will be up again in 5 short hours. I now know I can get mentally tougher and survive. I know that I can, because I see someone who has.

Sarah Palin is a woman who is doing it all. She speaks to me as a woman, as a business professional, as a mother, as a wife, as an athlete and as a advocate of special needs children.

Our country needed a Sarah Palin. She’s a bright star in our world that can inspire all of us to greater heights and to achieve things we never thought possible.

We need Sarah Palin to help lead our country. And now Sarah Palin needs us!

Hi Mary: I just read a few of your recent blogs. I love your honesty and openness! We often hear how a few people are like their public image but many have a public persona completely different from reality. What you see in Mary is what you get! I think that openness makes one more drawn to you as you honestly say what is on your mind even if it makes one upset and you discuss personal stuff about your life as it unfolds. Have a good night and maybe get 6 hrs of sleep instead of 5 hrs. :) Bruce

Hello and good evening.
I just read and enjoyed your article on Sarah Palin which I found on .
We are going to release an self-published mini-book on Sarah Palin with a collection of articles with different views on her. These will be articles written by many different writers with a wide range of views on her.
I would like to ask for you authorization to include you article in this collection.
In exchange I would include the part about you and your website links.
Could you please let me know if you agree.
Thank you in advance for letting me know as soon as possible.
Best regards,
Monica Kraenzle

Great blog on Sarah P!! Some of your best writing....-- Tim Van AntwerpOrlando FL

Hey Mary, I am sure you have gotten some really hateful responses to your article about Sarah Palin. I know that my excitement about her has not been well received in certain circles. I want to say "ditto" to your comments and then some. Sarah Palin has also encouraged me to get up and get going. Just knowing her story and that she exists in this world has inspired me to be better at all I do. Thanks for your words. Val Clemente

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Inspirational Slow Swimmer

This was written last year but never submitted-

Every once in a while a person captures your attention that is out of the ordinary. Perhaps you see someone treating someone exceptionally well, or a mommy happily playing with her baby or a person who struggles for every step. Occasionally, those moments can make you send up a silent prayer of thanks, give you a chuckle, or even make you stand there in amazement at what you just witnessed.

I’ve had a few experiences like that on the road on my trip. Today I was in the airport and spotted a bellman energetically walk up to a lady in a wheel chair. He was a tall, thin, African American man about 30+, and she was an elderly Caucasian woman probably over 80. The way he talked with her was as if the wheel chair was just an accessory and he hardly noticed. He said, “Hey! How are you today?” And that is when I started watching. He truly treated her with tons of respect and love. He didn’t know her apparently but he treated her so nice I was compelled to mention the guy to the man checking my ID and boarding pass. I was just amazed that he would treat her so well.
I was somewhat overcome with gratitude that there are such caring people in the world.

Another incredibly impressive person was a swimmer swimming in the lap pool during open swim in Indianapolis. No one was in his lane but him. He took forever to get across the pool because his arms were contorted in a way that didn’t allow his left arm to get up much beyond his stomach and his right arm wasn’t much better. He obviously had M.S or something. The thing that impressed me over and over was that he never stopped! I mean that as much of a struggle that it took to get across the pool every single lap, he never once stopped at the wall to take a breather. He kept GOING and GOING and GOING and GOING! He was like the energizer bunny!

I wanted to stop to talk with him, to ask him how he did it. He never stopped but what I wanted to know is what does he think about? Does he focus on what he can’t do? Or is he pushing himself to accomplish things that no one would expect? What motivates him? How did he get so much determination in his soul? Why wouldn’t he just take a break? He was working so hard!

I asked the life guard about him. I fantasized about making a movie around the swimming pool of a guy who struggles for every stroke and every breath, yet he continues to swim. The motivation was a dream from long ago fired by support from his mom that he had talent and should never, ever quit; even if his talent didn’t look like the normal swimmer in the water.

The lifeguard didn’t know much about him other than the fact that he swam there all the time. The other thing that the lifeguard told me was that the man could walk completely normally. And he happened to walk out while I was doing my own laps, so I never got to speak with him.
It is my belief that we come into contact with people for a purpose. Sometimes it’s to listen to us, sometimes to challenge us and sometimes to inspire us. If we spend some time looking at who comes into our path every day, we’ll be more aware of the many lessons that life can teach us. If we happen to pay attention, even to the ones who might get in our way, because they might be the ones that might inspire us the most!