I see your lips moving, but all I hear is “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I know it’s not what you want to hear, but quite simply, if you are a speaker, author, consultant or other “expert” I see being interviewed by the news media, your expertise just isn’t very interesting. Information is a dime-a-dozen and yours is no different.
So in this age of round-the-clock, on-demand, blue tooth, on line, high def., Wi-Fi, via satellite, news junky, at your fingertips world of information, what separates those messages that break through the clutter and the vast majority of expertise that goes un-tapped? The answer is very simple: It’s the delivery!
Information, delivered by experts in a straightforward fashion, is too often reminiscent of a classroom lecture – Boring! However that same content, deliver with passion, purpose, urgency, spirit and conviction can move people to action and move you to the top of the news media’s first call list.
The information stored in your brain is merely the entry fee. Your credentials to deliver that content is only the prerequisite. But your crusade is what truly makes you interesting. Your passion for the message is what makes you believable and its timely connection to some current or personal challenge is what makes it relevant.
Watch any national morning show, or cable news talk show and note who has the lion’s share of camera time. In television news, the one who most deftly steers the conversation, wins. But all too often, experts who are invited to sit on the television set to comment on a story of national interest, merely answer the questions posed to them and provide informed analysis. They are graciously thanked for their time, but rarely asked back. Why? Because most media opportunities are a test in disguise. And most experts unknowingly fail the test.
But think for a moment about the experts that have been featured time and time again in the national news – some even being rewarded with their own show. What is the common denominator? Above all else, it is that they are fiercely opinionated. They know what they want to say and aren’t afraid to say it. I’m not suggesting that you have to be a jerk to be newsworthy, only that you have to have the conviction that personifies a true thought leader.
Good radio talk show hosts, for example, don’t bring up a topic and ask for your opinions. Instead they tell you what they think and invite you to agree or disagree. Who among us is inspired to follow, or be moved to action by a credible, yet straightforward, or “dry” expert offering his or her expertise on a story of national or industry-specific interest?
To build your business, to attract clients or customer, to inspire others to hire you or buy your books or products, to engender loyalty and inspire true change, you must move beyond the realm of simply being smart and good at what you do. You must truly inspire.
And while we are all made up of the same composite materials, we are all wired a little differently. Being overly expressive and delivering content on the edge of your seat can be challenging for some, but it must be done. In working with the news media, we are playing in their sandbox and we must play by their rules, or we won’t be asked to play again.
For any kind of high-profile sustainability, you’ve got to provide what television journalists call “Good TV.” New, innovative, or provocative solutions to long-standing problems can be good TV. Either healthy exchanges or outright conflict among guests can both be good TV. Good TV means nothing more than being interesting and not blending in. Unfortunately, experts tend to be so immersed in their content that they believe it is the information that is interesting. In reality, it is the passion that brings about “Good TV.”
The biggest misperception in working with the press is the false notion that when a reporter asks a question, it’s because they want to know the answer. Unless it’s some sort of news investigation, the purpose of their questions is in most cases, simply to give you a launch pad for your ideas, your input and perspective. I’m not suggesting that you don’t answer the question, just use the answer as the springboard for your crusade.
Most reporters don’t know the subject nearly as well as the guest and you can easily move past the often irrelevant, or less important question by simply employing transitional phrases such as: “While I certainly agree, it’s also important to remember that…,” “That may be true, but the issue that really concerns me is…,” “While that issue is making headlines, we can’t forget that…,” “people sometimes fail to recognize that…,” “I find it fascinating that…” Then say what you came there to say, and do it with passion – regardless of the questions asked. Despite conventional wisdom, the reporter or interviewer will be very appreciative of your media savvy.
As most on-air interviews last no more than 90 seconds, I advised my clients to be crystal clear in their mind what they want to say, what they HAVE to say, what is crucial for them to impart to their audience for them to be successful in their business. Then they must make a solemn pledge to themselves (and to me) that they will not get out of that chair until they say it!
It’s the quid pro quo of working with the press: We help them fill up their newspapers and newscasts with content, and in return, we get a platform to relay our ideas. Use it. Don’t waste it. Don’t be boring. Be opinionated. Be passionate, relevant, provocative, believable, timely, different, memorable and news-worthy.
This article is more than just my opinion and my expertise – it is my crusade. If I had begun this article with a simple admonition to be more animated in your interviews, do you think you’d still be reading? Or would you have turned the page long ago? Remember, there are hundreds of millions of TV remote controls and page-turning fingers out there. Don’t be boring and they’ll likely stick with you, turn to you and hopefully come back to you.