Media Ready? Ten Steps to “Sure!”

Are you an artist? Writer? Are you media ready? With the profusion of podcasts, video blogs, community and internet radio, being media ready is as important to your creative career as having an answer to the question, “What do you do?”

The biggest disaster to career is deciding to “be loose and  wing it.” There is no excuse for being unprepared for an interview.  Deciding to speak without preparing can put a big dent in your credibility. Even worse, it can make people decide your product or service is not worth their attention, much less their money.

Some tips on preparing for a radio, TV, or podcast interview:

1. Ask the date, time and location of the show. Then watch it or  listen to previously recorded broadcasts. Is it humorous or serious? Do people get to talk about their books, products, services, or is that not allowed? Is it a panel discussion? How are the participants introduced? Are they required to be experts or casual commentators? Do listeners call in? Knowing how the program is structured helps you choose what to say and how to say it.

 2. How long you will be on the air?  Just because the podcast/show is an hour long, doesn’t mean you have an hour of talk time. You may be on for only 10 minutes at the end of the show. You may headline the show. It makes a big difference in what you have time to say, demonstrate or preview.  Ask who else is on the show, and find out what their area of expertise is.  Ask in what order the other presenters will speak.

3. Ask the name of the program, the content, the name of previous popular guests. You’ll be more comfortable being on a program that plays to your expertise. Some programs vary their content depending on the day of the week.  What sounds like a great show suddenly becomes a political panel once a week–and that’s your day. Sure, it might sound interesting to be on a hot political program, but if the host thinks interviewing means firing non-stop questions and accusations about your point of view, you have a lot more preparing to do. Even more so if politics isn’t your area of experience.

4. Two questions you must ask the producer or interviewer:
Who is your audience?
What’s the objective?
You’ll need to gear your comments to the popular culture reference of the audience–I once spoke about the family gathering around the kitchen table for activities and the host replied, “I never ate at the kitchen table. Breakfast was in the car on the way to school, and dinner came from the drive-through on the way to soccer.” He lost interest in my field of expertise because I didn’t sound credible to his demographic.

Image: Phrenology, from The Boomer Chronicles

You need to know the objective, because everything you say needs to be geared to meeting the objective. Are you persuading, being the local expert? Is your purpose to rally around a cause? Contribute money? Have people show up somewhere? Unless you know the purpose, you don’t know what to say.

5. Ask for a list of questions. It’s fine to do that. Again, there are few investigative reporters left. Most likely, you are being asked because you have information. If the host says, “We’ll just talk,” then it’s your job to create a list of questions you want to be asked. Prepare a list of talking points that you can comfortably talk about. (See #6).

6. Prepare a list of points you want to make. Put them in the order of most important to least important. Make the points interesting to your audience. “Writing in a journal is fun,” is not nearly as interesting to college-age listeners as “Journals aren’t just on paper anymore. You can keep a video journal and create your own mashups, too.” A well-written point keeps you on topic and makes a great sound bite.

7. Have some information to back up what you are saying. Your opinion is great, but having several studies that prove your point is better. Tell the host a link to the study is posted on your site, offer to send the information to the host. Even better, summarize the study on a page of your website, and post a link to the whole study.

8. Gear your style to the objective. Are you asking for agreement or contributions? Be vivid, inject stories, use emotions. You don’t need to break into tears or laughter. Logic is on the left side of the brain, but judgment is on the right, along with emotion and creativity. Facts are necessary, but if you don’t bring the audience from understanding what you are saying to agreeing with you, you missed the objective.

9. Be prepared, even if things go wrong. A few weeks ago, I was a guest on a radio show. I was asked for talking points, which I provided. The host never mentioned them. Instead, he asked about his favorite parts of the book. Luckily, I had the book with me, and could make some of the points I had prepared.

10. Preparing and practicing for a show actually calms you down and makes you a better presenter. A good presenter becomes a popular guest, and that opens the door to being invited back. Being a good presenter makes the host feel smart to have invited you. And a host who feels smart will remember you with enthusiasm.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and trainer who helps artists and writers (and artists who write books) become media savvy.