Landing The Big Fish

We often get asked how Allen Media Strategies routinely land the really big media hits for our clients. It’s gotten to the point where folks who want us to represent them come to us now expecting we can waive our magic wand and get them on CNN, The New York Times front page or Howard Stern’s radio show just by making a call. As a matter of fact, it happened to me just this morning. “Get me on NPR; I deserve to be there.” Maybe, but not so fast. 

Yes, our clients have appeared on thousands of media outlets including all the national television and radio networks, the biggest newspapers and magazines, the most trafficked websites. No, it’s not automatic. If any agency tells you they can always make that happen, run away from them and make sure you still have your wallet with you when you leave.

So, how do we do it? How do we land the big fish? And, how can you do it even if you’re not an Allen Media Strategies client? Here’s the first, most important rule:

Know The Show.

Not only should you actually know who you’re pitching, you have to be prove you know the show when you make first contact. It you send a “Dear NAME” email you’re dead in the water. And, you have to grab them in the subject line or they’ll never even open the email. At a minimum, you need to mention the host or writer’s name and the type of segment you see yourself fitting into. To horribly mis-quote the late Johnny Cochran “if the show don’t fit, you must quit!”

This doesn’t mean just spending 30 seconds Googling the show, writing down the name(s) you need, and jamming them into the subject line of your email.  (By the way, when I say “show”, this same advice goes for TV and radio shows, as well as print and online outlets).  

Years ago, I had a client who received an interview request for a very controversial TV show.  My client wasn’t familiar with the host or their platform. Our client was an earring wearing West Coast liberal. The TV host was a loud, animated and highly rated conservative flamethrower.  My client was pretty excited about the huge national exposure…until I had him watch video of the show. When he quickly admitted he couldn’t handle himself with the host, we did specific media and message training and our client knocked it out of the park on the air.  

The bottom line? Invest the time to get yourself prepared. Do your homework. Listen, watch or read at least 3 days in a row to get a real feel for the content, texture and style of the interviewer. Note their topic base. Determine the media outlet’s target demographic. Do they target men or women? What age range would their content most appeal to? What types of “non-celebrity” guests do they feature? Is there a political lean, and if so, how can you thread that needle while being true to yourself and your brand, and still utilizing their audience to grow your own tribe?  

Here’s the good news. The internet has made it much easier to do this homework, and at your own schedule. Record radio shows or podcasts; most stream online. DVR TV shows. Archive and bookmark articles.  

If you really, truly think your idea, platform or concept is worth being considered by some of the most overworked, underpaid, buried-by-email people on the planet (TV and radio show producers and print journalists whose are constantly doing way more work with way fewer people) then the least you can do is actually prepare and properly target your pitch to them. Believe me, they’ll appreciate you not wasting their time like hundreds of other hopefuls do, and eventually, that preparation will pay off.  

What’s that? You say that’s way too much work, time, effort and energy to devote to pitching one media outlet? That’s fine. You just determined that you shouldn’t be pitching a big show, so you can save yourself the time of trying and failing. Call us instead. We’ll do it right. And if we keep on using the right bait, we’re gonna catch that big fish.  

Learn Your Insider Terms

At Allen Media Strategies, we always coach our clients never to use insider terms for their area of expertise when doing media interviews. The goal is to make your message go down easy for the end user. My friend Dave, a long time broadcaster, public speaker and communications expert, has “big words fancy talker” printed […]

Develop and Maintain Media Relationships

The media has always been a very transient profession; television, radio, print and online folks move around A LOT, and the moves might surprise you. This is another reason for you to continue doing interviews for small market media outlets; you never know when one of those folks is going to move up into a bigger, better position.
Here are a few examples; we’ve deleted the names to protect their anonymity.
-A local TV reporter we know who worked in the very small Panama City Florida market just last year is now a national correspondent for FOX NEWS CHANNEL
-A print reporter for the New Orleans Times Picayune now hosts a radio talk show in Mississippi
-A producer for left-leaning MSNBC has now crossed over to produce and book one of the top rated shows at conservative FOX NEWS
-One of Burke Allen’s former interns at CBS Radio Las Vegas is now a successful on-air host and radio station programmer in Memphis
Keep track of the contacts you make, because when they switch to a new outlet, that can mean fresh opportunities for you.

Live or Pre-Recorded?

If you’re ever given the choice of doing a media interview live or taped, always opt for live.  Although your instinct might tell you to go for the taped piece so you can have “do-overs” in case of mistakes, resist that temptation.  Here are three reasons why:
1)  Content control:  Recently, an Allen Media Strategies client did a pre-recorded appearance on ABC TV’s “Good Morning America”.  While the publicity was fantastic, the final piece that aired edited out one of the key points our client felt was really important, even though the show booker had promised that it would be included.
2)  Better chance to steer:  An pre-taped interview can be easily edited to eliminate references to your website, any product or service you’re plugging, etc.  That’s nearly impossible to do in a live interview setting.
3)  Less likely to be bumped:  Taped packages are often bumped from airing until weeks or months later (and sometimes, not at all).  If you’re live, you KNOW it’s going on the air!
One caveat to the above; if pre-recording is your only option, then try to take it.  Remember, this is free publicity…and a chance of it airing is far better than no chance at all.

Preparing for Your Media Interview: 7 Tips

So, after doing extensive work in the background, you’ve successfully marketed yourself to the media, and now a television or radio station is interested in interviewing you…congratulations! It’s up to you give the best possible interview you can.

We advise our clients to “own the experience” and really knock the ball out of the park whenever they do an interview. The better you do, the more likely you’ll be asked back for subsequent appearances. In this day of instant information sharing, great performances often get bicycled around on the internet to other media producers, who are much more apt to extend an interview invitation to you if you do a terrific job. And, you’ll be proud to use that interview clip for your own self promotion purposes on your website and in social networking.

1.    Write down the three to five main points you want to cover, and look for opportunities to work them in whenever possible to the fabric of your interview conversation. Memorize those talking points, and especially on television, don’t refer to your note cards.

2.    Include short stories and/or humor to help you make your important points. This will help you to come across as more approachable and down-to-earth. Tailor your humor and the length of your short stories to the particular media outlet’s target audience. Are they younger or older? Conservative or liberal? Urban or rural?

3.    Anticipate the questions interviewers are likely to ask and prepare answers that include your main points. Study the host’s prior interviews to find their favorite questions, approaches and interview style (soft, friendly, confrontational) so you’ll know what to expect and how to respond in most instances.

4.    Keep your answers simple and short. Complex, lengthy answers tend to bore and oftentimes confuse audiences. Also, research has shown that a lengthy cadence of just one voice, even if it’s yours, will tend to facilitate audience tuneout.

5.    Your job is to make the interviewer look good, while getting your main points across. Don’t try to upstage or belittle the interviewer, no matter how silly or off-the-wall their questions may sound to you. You are a guest on their program, and as such, should act accordingly.

6.    Practice your interviewee skills by having friends or family members pretend they’re the interviewer and question you as if you’re being interviewed live. Practice both telephone and in person interviews to prepare for radio interviews. Work with a stopwatch, so that you can get used to tailoring your answers to fit within the allotted length of your media appearance. The less time on air you have, the more crucial it is to hit those short sound byte type answers. The longer the interview, the more important it is to continue to revisit the main talking points/themes you need to cover (including in most cases your contact information). That’s because there is a constant coming-and-going phenomenon in electronic media. Many viewers and listeners will miss part of your interview, and if they come in late, you want to make sure they know who you are, what you’re talking about and how to get in touch with you.

7.    When you practice, videotape and audiotape yourself to observe and critique your performance. Be conscious of your posture, facial expressions and gestures for in person interviews, and your articulation, speech rate, fluency and inflection for radio phone interviews.