Often people see my experience of being interviewed in the media and they ask me, how do I get on these shows? I tell them that I think of how I can add value to the show’s audience and how I can make the producer’s life easier.
So where do you start? This is how to get interviewed.
What’s in it for them? What kind of stories do they
Your first job if you want to know how to be interviewed in the media is to do your research: choose a show and really think about what you can offer. What kind of topics do they talk about, with what angle? You will very quickly realise that there are actually a relatively small number of shows on T.V. and radio that are a good match for what you do.
You have to see your story or your business through their eyes: if you were the producer of the show, would you pick yourself? Who is the audience of the show – would your story be of interest to them?
Think like the host of the show in which you want to be featured. How does this host choose their guests generally? What does the audience of this show really like? Which episode was particularly successful, who was on it that day?
The size of the audience and the glamour of a show are not enough to go on: you have to think how you, your business and your story fit with the interests of its listenership or viewership.
It’s not about you at all…
Don’t for a minute imagine that you will be called on a show and you will be allowed to extol the virtues of your business or your latest venture at length: it’s not about you at all.
On several occasions, people have spoken to me about their experience of engaging with the media and they tell me they met with very little interest. As I invite them to tell me about the process, this is very often the story I hear: how they sent in a 700-word press release, as an attachment to a very short e-mail along the lines of:
To Whom It May Concern,
I hope that you are keeping well.
Please find attached our press release which might be of interest to your show.
If you have any questions or comments, please do let me know.
Let’s analyse this through the eye of the producer.
1. The greeting points out that this is an e-mail blast to everybody and anybody. You need to write the name of the person to whom you’re sending the e-mail at the very beginning (you can find their name simply by googling them, listening to the presenter thank their team by name at the end of a radio show or keeping a close eye on the credits at the end of a TV show).
2. The press release is attached, which means they have to click on it to find it. They will only do so it they’re interested, and there isn’t anything in the e-mail telling them why it would be worth their while to open it. You need to write a compelling one-line reason as to why they should spend 30 seconds scanning the text. They are exceptionally busy people who have to keep on top of all the news and react to developments in a matter of seconds. Understandably, they don’t have time to read fully through everything sent to them on daily basis.
3. The call to action isn’t clear. What should they do next? Tell the producer in the e-mail that you’re available for interview and would be delighted to speak to them at (insert your phone number).
In essence, when you’re trying to engage with the media, it’s the same as making any other type of sale. You research your target market, consider how you can improve their lives with your offering, clearly point out how they can buy from you and make it easy for them to do so.
There’s a paradox that you have to be aware of when you want to approach people in the media: they’re extremely busy and as a result have little time for you, but at the same time they’re always looking for the next person or story that their audience will like.
If you’re not extremely quick to tell them why they should listen to you, they’ll move to the next thing. On the other hand, if you have something their audience values, they will be all ears.
It’s all about the audience and what they expect
Think about the actual stories that a show covers. In the case of Ireland AM, the first hour tends to be quite economic, particularly the first section, the second hour is more about the softer aspects of business: how people reached a milestone, etc. So if you have a beauty or a fashion story, or a personal story of achieving something worthwhile, it would fit well in that section.
Compare that to lunchtime on Newstalk: it’s completely different. They want hard business news stories that have happened in the past couple of hours and fast-paced commentary.
Your story, your reason for being on the show has to be something that the listeners will learn, benefit from and/or enjoy.
Case study: How I was recently featured on the
Sunday Business Show (06.09.2015)
Case in point: I recently published a post about applying for business grants and awards. Because media people are always on the lookout for good stories, some of them who have an interest in economics and business receive my newsletter (another reason why you should have a newsletter). Signing up to various newsletters is part of their job of monitoring their particular area of interest.
When the newsletter featuring the article about grants went out, I received a message from the Sunday Business Show, asking would I come to give listeners an idea of what business grants are available in Ireland. It’s a topic I’m happy to talk about, so I went (listen to the podcast here).
Notice the following things:
- I wasn’t invited to repeat what was in the blog post, I needed to prepare for the show by researching those grants and making sure my knowledge was up to date. In other words, there was work involved.
- I wasn’t invited to talk about me or my business, but to offer valuable information to the show’s listeners. This information had nothing to do with my specific company, I didn’t have anything to sell or advertise.
In essence, I was gathering information and passing on some useful tips. I have myself been the recipient of several of these grants, so I was more than happy to pay it forward by letting other businesses know about them.
In fact, listeners found this information so valuable that this specific podcast was chosen as “Editor’s Pick” the following week, as it was the most downloaded.
If you’ve been following the blog for some time, you will know it wasn’t my first time on the Sunday Business Show. So you might dismiss this case study by saying “Easy for you to say! You know the people at the show…”
However, I didn’t know anybody when I first started out. It’s all about building your network in good faith, by being helpful and adding value. And you will notice that, on those two previous occasions (here and here), the same principles applied: there was research work involved as I needed to look up statistics and make sense of them, and I wasn’t invited to talk about my business. In other words, it was, in fact, about what I knew, and about what I could share with listeners.
Ask yourself: Why this show? Why you? Why now?
I often speak about my experience of working with the media in entrepreneurship groups and I point out various things that people can do to get more PR. I often offer to introduce business owners to producers that I know, if they have an angle of interest to a show.
Once a person in the group asked me for my email contacts – but I said, “I will only introduce you to the producers of the right show for your story. Which show do you want to go on?” Their answer: “Could you introduce me to them all?” But that’s simply not how it works. You don’t just blanket all the producers of all the shows in all of the country and hope to get an answer.
So I told that person to refine their search and to send on any material they had, along with the name of the show that would be best for them. The only thing I ever received was a page-long piece from their local paper that had featured them a number of years before: but that’s not going to get you anywhere. It doesn’t answer the questions why this show, why you, why now?
The difference is between “Here is why I want to be on the show”, where it’s all about you, and “Here is how the show and the audience will benefit by having me”. Is the specific audience of that particular show looking for the kind of information that you possess? In that case go for it. Nobody gets up in the morning thinking “I wonder how I could give So-and-so more publicity.” It’s up to So-and-so to show why they have a place on a certain show.
What is your message? You’re not the next whoever
– who are you?
Now if you do all of the above, that’s not to say that you’ll automatically be featured, but you have dramatically improved your chances. It’s like going for a business award: by giving it a try, even if you don’t succeed at first, you will be refining your message and your brand.
It’s the same message that is in my TEDx talk, in the first episode of the Savvy Podcast, and on this blog: be true to yourself, that is how you stand out. There’s no point in being different for difference’s sake, but you have to be able to articulate clearly what is special about you and your message.
In my own case, my brand values are to focus on practical solutions that can be implemented immediately, and to practice what I preach: the positivity within me comes from focusing on what you can change, what is in your control.
People often ask me “So, are you the next Such-and-such?” I understand the need to pigeonhole people, to very quickly get a rough idea of who somebody is. However, I respond with “I can see why you would think of Such-and-such, but I’m different because (I have a different specialist focus/I have a different experience/I’ve followed a different path/ I generate my revenue a different way/I have a different perspective on a topic)” At the end of the day I have no desire to be the next Such-and-such: I’m myself.
Keep it short, very short, as short as you can
If you’re wondering how to be interviewed, keep in mind that people who work in the media are besieged 24/7 by an avalanche of information screaming for their attention. They don’t have the time to read a five-page email, or even a five-paragraph email.
The subject line is very important – if you can get your message across in that length, a producer may deduce you have good communication skills to convey a point in the short period of time they have to offer you. In the body of the e-mail, five sentences are good, two sentences are even better.
If it’s right up their alley, if they already have an interest in the topic, and if you communicate value clearly, they will follow up. Believe me, everybody in the media is afraid of missing out on the next big thing. If they see promise in what you write, they will get back to you.
So there is no need to go on and on about you and your business. If they’re not coming back to you it’s because they’re not interested. Yes, you can follow up, but not with “Hi did you get my email”: make the effort of sending them a new pitch, a fresh angle. You will get more non-replies than answers, but it’s worth it when you make that connection.
Whatever your business, or even if you don’t have a business yet (especially in that case!), you can find your own angle to share your knowledge and experience with the listeners of a specific show. Somebody, somewhere, is hungry for the information you have. So help them out…
Be of help – is there anything else you can do for
Think ahead, think of other things that would make their day easier. Could you go into studio, instead of being interviewed on the phone, so the conversation can have a face-to-face dynamic? Could you ensure that you have a landline in a quiet place so they don’t have to worry about a mobile connection?
It has also happened to me that, when media called me asking for my opinion on something, I had to decline; either I wasn’t be available on that day, or it wasn’tt really my area of expertise.
However, I will always do everything I can to suggest somebody else who would be a good fit and I give the caller their contact details if I have them, to save time. They can put down the phone and immediately dial the number of somebody else who might be interested in the interview.
You might think I’m giving the opportunity to my “competition”. I don’t see it that way at all, It just feels great to be able to help out, and there are always tomorrow’s headlines waiting for analysis.
So, get started right away! What do you have to say… and to whom? Refine your message into a short e-mail and get ready for broadcast!
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Here are some of my recent radio interviews, accessible immediately. I hope they inspire you to shape your own message: