Media Coaching: Practice your worst fears

During media coaching I leer, I snipe, I antagonize, I attack. The first time played the aggressive interviewer to a volunteer in a seminar, she shrank back in her chair in fear. She grabbed her gut. She said, “I’m afraid of you now.”

I asked her to hang in there while I let loose my aggressive questions over and over again. Her job was just to remain calm, she didn’t need to say anything. After the fifth time she said, “That wasn’t so bad.”

Often times people hire me to media coach them after a similar experience with the media – except it’s a real interview and they do need to respond. Of course most of the time no one will be shrieking at you. But it’s often not about the words, but the tone, the energy the force that scary.

I just heard an interview with New York Times reporter Bruce Weber discussing “The little-known world of “foul balls and face masks” on the NPR radio show Fresh Air with Terry Gross. For three years, Weber trained to be a baseball umpire at umpire school. He said he was terrified that he’d be hit in the face with a high speed ball, even though he was wearing a face mask.

To help him get over his fear his instructor threw the ball at his head. After five times the fear started to lessen, by the fifteenth time it had dissipated and he had gotten over his fear. It’s the same with media coaching. Going through the visceral experience will help dispel any fears. Often my clients want to start with what they fear most – because either they’ve experienced their worst fear, or because it’s looming.

Everyone fears something. Even the most experienced interviewer. So practice the questions you DON’T want to be asked to get them off the table so you can focus on your true purpose….

1. Set your intention.
Ask yourself two key questions: What do I want my audience to know? And how can I help them? No one cares about your product service or cause…until they see how it relates to something they need.

2. Tell a good story.
I had one client who spoke like a professor teaching a class based entirely on theory with no practical tips, stories, or anything that might engage a person at an emotional or visceral level. We worked on finding personal anecdotes that her audiences could relate to.

When I asked a recent client who sought me out to prep him for a job interview at an exclusive restaurant to tell me how he handled a disastrous or potentially disastrous situation he said to me, “Have you ever broken a cork on a $3000 bottle of wine? I have.” Then he told me how he calmly dealt with the situation without anyone at the table being any wiser. Every story starts out with a headline that makes you snap to attention. What follows should be equally riveting.

3. Don’t be overly promotional.
While one of the essential things I teach is how to seamlessly integrate the information you want your audience to know about your product, service or cause into the conversation, don’t overdo it. I was recently on a radio show with a panel of people who were all famous in their own right. One person was obviously a very experienced media guest, but every single time she shared information she interjected something about herself, her credentials, her business and her services. Enough already. Although the what she had to say was valuable I found myself recoiling from what felt like being drilled without respite.

The most important thing in an interview is to be natural while you’re interesting. Letting go of your fears is a process that allows you to relax while you’re giving good information that people can use and enjoy.

More info:
To learn more about how to develop sound bites that sing here.


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Hi, I'm Susan

Hi, I'm Susan

I’m a media coach, martial artist + marketing strategist who helps you communicate your values, mission + message during media interviews to multiply your revenue while building your brand + business. I believe that you don’t need to brag, beg or whore yourself to get the publicity you want. Nor do you need to be an axe murderer, a shamed sports star, or be involved in a sex scandal. There is another way…

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