Answer this question (ALWAYS)

I made this mistake early.

“C-Level folks don’t take kindly to being trained.”  So now, I media coach a ton of people.  I talk a lot to a lot of folks about how to talk with the media.  Non-profits to brass…all individuals who are waaaay smarter than I am.  But you would be surprised how many of those professionals pass up the opportunity to answer the easiest question outside “say and spell your first and last name…so we have it on tape.”

For 17 years, I was a TV reporter. I was the one holding the microphone, asking the questions. Because I know how it went down then, I’m able now to help clients with the tricks (or “strategies”) that journalists use.

Daily, when I was in the field, I would look for a few key things in every 4-7 minute interview. I would search for one factual sound bite (“The Probable Cause Statement documents what we allege happened the night of March 13”) and one bite on background (“waters breached the levy back in 2002, and I lost all 187 acres of my corn and milo…”). I also needed emotion…the stuff I couldn’t convey in my track.  I found that emotion comes in many forms:  sobbing, cackling, smiling loud enough to hear, and even — silence.

No matter what I was able to pull from my interviews, good or bad, my last question was the one that folks would constantly pass up.  People could see the interview was winding down, and they were usually anxious to be done.  (Guy with a microphone and a blinding light on top of a camera is intimidating.  I get it.)  I would shrug my shoulders, say thanks and udder, “Anything else?”  It’s a total softball, a gimme, a bunny.

I would ask it for several reasons:

  1. Honestly, I wanted to know if I missed something
  2. To give the interviewee another chance to shorten the original 30-second answer
  3. To redeliver an answer that was stumbled through
  4. I was often in a time crunch. I always needed one 7-second bite for the early shows, and telling the editor “just cue up the last answer” worked
  5. THIS is where I would get my most honest, heartfelt soundbites

Knowing how often people would deny this wide-open opportunity, I now counsel my clients to NEVER pass this up because it gives them:

  1. Another chance to weave emotion into a message point
  2. Another opportunity to reinforce a message point
  3. Another occasion to introduce another message point

So no matter who is getting the training…ahem “coaching”—a C-level exec, a bartender or a mommy blogger—the press can’t use what they don’t say. Make this opportunity work in their favor, and help them speak up!

Author Bio:  PSPR’s Robb Yagmin loves to pitch products and sling stories…it’s his jam. His experience on the “other side” allows him to not only give real-life, critical information to get through a media interview, but also successfully weave a pointed message into a soundbite. He’ll talk your ear off, but he writes in short sentences. He is a loud talker and a futbal fiend.

Check out www.pspublicrelations.com to learn more about his company and if he can hook you up.

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