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The Seven C's of Media Appearances
by Brian Jud

Return to Public Speaking · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

Media appearances provide an excellent opportunity to get your message across to a large audience in a short period of time. But simply being on a show does not guarantee sales of your book. Your interview will be more successful if you are aware of the content and delivery of your message. There are seven guidelines to help you do that, each beginning with the letter "C." Use them whenever you talk on the air so you come across as:

1) Creative. Since the viewers or listeners are preoccupied with other activities that distort or inhibit your intended message, you can break through to them quickly by being different, but in an entertaining way. An innovative approach gets and holds the attention of the audience.

For example, introduce unexpected or new information. Give a new angle on what is already known. Capture the imaginations of the people in the audience with a twist on what they anticipate, and you will have them in the palm of your hand.

Caroline Kennedy demonstrated creativity while promoting her book The Right to Privacy on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She prepared a videotape describing the humiliation to which one woman was subjected while being interrogated by the police. The tape included an interview with the woman, who was also in the live audience. This multimedia presentation riveted the audience's attention on the discussion.

2) Credible. A guest is not looked upon as an objective spokesperson, and the audience naturally expects you to say only what is good about your book or product. To combat this impression, tell the host how you want to be introduced. Are you an expert who has also written a book? Are you a consultant? Are you the president of your own company? Give the host the words that will position you as an objective source of information.

Most hosts begin with a question to establish your credentials to let the audience know you have the qualifications to make statements about this topic and you should be taken seriously.

"I ask the author to outline his or her credentials right away so my listeners know you went to Harvard or spent X years researching. It builds the author's credibility." -- Deborah Wetzel, morning news anchor and talk-show host on WCBS-FM, New York City

The perception of an ulterior motive makes you suspect in the viewers' minds immediately. Combat that by using real-life illustrations as Caroline Kennedy did. It can be more effective if the examples are personal, describing what you went through and expressing the feelings you experienced. Make the audience empathize with you. Show them how you survived (or conquered, implemented, discovered or proved) something and, by following your advice, how they can, too.

Proper grammar and a good vocabulary will make you appear more credible. Learn how to use English properly, and practice using different words to express yourself.

  • Don't allow non-words (such as "um, uh") to creep into your speech. Frequent use of "OK" and the words "you know" may also alienate the listener.

  • Guests can diminish their credibility before a mature audience by using expressions that are "hip" or "cool" in everyday speech, but rarely used in the business world. They also detract from communication effectiveness because the audience is focused on the idiom, not the essence of the message. Hence, the words "like" and "awesome" suggest you may not be the authority you say you are.

There is an element of presumed credibility in the fact that you are brought into the viewers' homes by a trusted friend -- the host of the show. If the host treats you with respect, it creates an inherent, implied endorsement of your credibility.

Respect the host in return. Do not try to make him or her look bad by saying (or insinuating) something negative such as, "You mean you don't know about that?" Instead, help your host out of a potentially embarrassing situation. Your hosts know the television business but may not know your subject as well as you do. Even if they do, they may ask very basic questions for the benefit of the audience.

"I'm looking for people who are natural, someone with a sense of humor who can tell a good story. I look for a person who is not intimidating but can make intimidating information accessible to my viewers." -- Rita Thompson, Field Producer for CNBC, CBS News and Chronicle

Avoid "The Smart Factor" where you feel you have to impress the audience with how much you know. If you help people in some way, if you know what you are talking about, then you look smart. Let them know immediately that you are not there to try to impress them, but to help them overcome some problem they have or could have. Know who you are and speak from your heart.

3) Current. Little will damage your credibility as much as your bewildered look and vague answer in response to a host's question on a timely topic.

Read national newspapers, magazines and watch news programs so you can respond to questions on late-breaking events. When performing on a show in a distant city, read its newspaper for local events pertaining to your subject.

"Interviewers will talk about what they're getting over the wire services, not what's in your book." -- Suzi Reynolds, professional media trainer

Before going on the air, ask the host if there are any local issues which you can address during the interview. News shows are about news, so give current information related to events of importance.

"If you're not a local resident I don't expect you to know local events. And I don't expect you to be a walking encyclopedia. But I do expect you to know national events surrounding your topic, what pertains to the topic we're here to discuss." -- Benita Zahn, noon news anchor and talk-show host on WNYT-TV, Albany, NY

4) Convincing. What is true is not always believable, and what is believable is not always true. Document your words. Provide enough details to convince the audience that you are telling the truth. For example, by having the subject of the tape in the live audience, Caroline Kennedy persuaded people to believe her story was real.

You can present charts and figures to document what you say, but doing so is not always helpful or necessary (particularly on radio). Instead, win your audience over by using the following fourteen words proven to elicit a positive response: you, free, discover, safety, help, results, money, save, guarantee, health, new, proven, love and easy. Using these words will convince the audience you are on its side, interested in helping it discover a new, easy way to save money or achieve other proven results. Members of the audience will love you for the free information; guaranteed.

"I think it's very important that an author should be able to tell good anecdotes, bring a story to life. I'm not interested in statistics. I'm not interested in knowing how intellectual you are. I want you to be able to touch my viewer." -- Rita Thompson

Watch your host for an indication of the extent to which you sound convincing. He or she will (intentionally or unintentionally) give signs of rapt attention, skepticism, indifference or outright objection. Look for the host's head nodding in agreement or shaking in disbelief, a questioning scratch on the back of the head or frequent glances at the studio clock. Do not overreact to any one signal, but look for indications of your progress. During a commercial break, ask for feedback and make any necessary adjustments.

5) Complete. The length of a complete answer is relative. If you are on a news show for three minutes, you do not have time to develop a long response. Your answer should be a complete thought, condensed to fifteen or twenty seconds. The host will prompt you if more information is needed for clarification or substantiation.

The length of an answer in a two-minute news segment should probably be about 15-20 seconds. Just get to the heart of it. If you are on a half-hour talk show, you have more opportunity to develop your answers. But do not make them too long, and always keep the host and audience involved in your response so it does not turn into a boring monologue.

"A good guest is an engaging guest. Lively. Funny, if appropriate. Someone who knows the length of the show and can adjust the length of his or her answers accordingly." -- Eric Marcus, former producer for Good Morning America and CBS This Morning

Below are four ways to structure your answers. Use one or more of them during a show to vary your responses, build rapport and make the interview seem like a conversation:

The chronological response. This method involves a description of your subject from a strategic beginning point. Starting with the earliest relevant experience, describe each event before moving on to the next. Or you could use the reverse-chronological sequence beginning with your most current information and then going backward in time.

The narrative response. This format gives you the chance to present your point in the form of a story. Use a narrative response only during shows of fifteen minutes or more. It is a good response to the amiable host seeking information about the real you, the person behind the image.

The enumerative response. This is a good technique to use in a short segment, when the host asks for "three quick examples to prove your point." List and describe each briefly, counting them off on your fingers for emphasis. You could also use the enumerative technique at the end of the show to summarize your major points.

The geographical response. Use this when it is important to describe where something took place.

6) Clear. Do not beat around the bush. In many cases, people listen to the radio and watch television while doing something else. Get their attention with an immediate, positive impact so they heed what you are saying.

"This is not the printed page. If you miss something, it's gone forever. Speak in a way that enables people to understand you." -- Jim Bohannon, host of the nationally broadcast Jim Bohannon Show

"I want somebody who is going to be concise, clear and accessible. Someone who can take perhaps complicated information and put it in very simple, understandable terms." -- Rita Thompson

You are the expert on the topic under discussion. That is why you were asked to be on the show. Translate your message so the audience can understand what you are saying. Make simple, direct answers that are understandable to the lowest common denominator. Be natural, friendly and informative. Smile to show you enjoy the experience.

7) Concise. Make every word count.

"Some people don't understand the word concise. Make your point in 15 seconds. Learn how to speak for television; you don't have time to set up your answer. Give your answers in complete thoughts in a concise amount of time. Don't digress to other points and don't ramble. -- Rita Thompson

People filter out anything they feel is irrelevant, but listen more intently if something seems to be important to them. It is not difficult to take part in an interview if you know and believe in your message.

"We're looking for someone who is not boring but who doesn't talk too much. Someone who gets to the point. Someone who can speak clearly, naturally and someone who can address the questions that the host asks. -- Larry Kahn, Director of Talk Programming at Westwood One Entertainment

Before you get on any television or radio show, know your material. Be able to talk about it using these Seven Cs and you will be more entertaining and informative — and you will well more books.

Find Out More...

Getting on the Air - Brian Jud

Handling TV Interviews, by Vera Marie Badertscher

Help! I'm Going to Be on TV!, by Barbara Florio Graham

How to Appear Your Best on TV, by Brian Jud

Copyright © 2002 Brian Jud
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Brian Jud is an author, book-marketing consultant, seminar leader and television host. He is a prolific writer of articles about book publishing and marketing, a syndicated columnist, and a frequent contributor to the Publishers Marketing Association Newsletter. He also hosts the television series The Book Authority, and has appeared on over 500 television and radio shows. Brian is the founder and president of the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association, and founder and president of Book Marketing Works, a book-marketing consulting firm (http://www.bookmarketingworks.com/).


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