5 Steps to Prepare for a Media Interview

Capture5I spend my days responding to media inquiries and prepping individuals for media interviews. Having done this for more years than I care to admit, I’ve learned a few things. Here are five of my top tips to prepare for an interview:

Know the angle of the article before you agree to the interview. I never give an interview or arrange for someone else to be interviewed unless I know the topic. If it’s related to a crisis, I already know it’s going to be slightly hostile, and I plan accordingly. But even if it’s completely cordial, it’s important to know the focus. And, if possible, ask for the questions in advance.

Collect background information. I always find out about the news outlet, as well as the reporter. This includes looking at recent stories, finding out what makes the reporter tick and finding out how stories are handled by the outlet.

Prepare your answers. Whether the reporter provides questions in advance or not, you should always develop your own list of anticipated questions – both the good and bad – and determine your answers. What are the main points you want to make. When the story runs, what is the one point you want to get across? If you anticipate some tough questions, how can you pivot to the points you want to make?

Provide background on your organization. Also, be willing to provide background on your organization or your subject matter. Don’t assume the reporter has had time to conduct the necessary research. If you provide this information, not only do you make your organization look good, you make the reporter look good.

Conduct a dry run. Interviews are not easy. Schedule time to have someone play the role of reporter and ask you questions. Then practice giving your answers. You don’t want to over rehearse, but you do want to be comfortable answering the questions.

5 Steps to Networking Success

dscf2419My colleagues and I were deciding what time to head out to a luncheon workshop that includes networking. I opted to arrive early, and it had nothing to do with punctuality or finding a parking space.

As an introvert, it’s easier for me to be among the first to arrive at a networking event. That way, I can spot others arriving and easily approach them. We connect and have a conversation. It’s much more challenging for me to wade into a large group and network.

Here are a few tips for successful networking:

As I shared above, arrive early.

Stand out. Have your elevator speech ready, be professional, and be memorable. For years, when people asked what I did, I said that my job was like being an air traffic controller. I then explained what I meant. In my current job, I like to wear a lapel pin of our mascot, which always leads to conversation.

Listen more than you talk. If you ask open-ended questions, and listen to the answers, you will learn about the person, and they are more likely to remember you because you listened. Too often, we ask a question, and instead of listening, we are thinking about our next question to ask or what we are going to share with the person.

Aim for quality, not quantity. When I first started my career, I was all about collecting business cards. Those cards do me no good, though, if I can’t remember whose card it is or in what context I met the person. If I’m at a lunch event, I may only leave with one card. At a conference, I may leave with seven or eight. I make it a point to note something I learned about the person on the back of their card.

Follow-up. One of the reasons, I write notes on a person’s business card is because I like to follow up with the person within a month of our meeting. I try to share information that I think may be of value to them, further cementing our networking opportunity.

To Succeed, Choose What Is Essential

I was commiserating recently with a colleague about busyness. We each expressed how we had agreed to do things that have filled our schedules. I asked rhetorically, “Why do we do these things?” She didn’t hesitate to answer.

Her response, “We get ourselves into these things because of passion, energy, and a need to ‘do it right.’” She also said the activities probably filled a need to be needed. Ironically, another friend had recently come to the realization that she almost always said yes when asked to serve on a committee or take on an assignment, in large part, because she liked feeling needed. Once she realized that, she also realized she could say no.

I admit that one of the challenging areas in my life requires much attention, but it also is an area for which I am really passionate so I didn’t feel comfortable saying no to the request.

Fortunately, I was reading “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown when I was asked to step into the role. The wisdom from the book helped me to set parameters, and I know there is an end in sight. That is important because time spent on this project is taking away from time I’d like to devote to writing.

McKeown asks his readers whether they have ever found themselves majoring in minor activities. His point is that through Essentialism we learn how to get the right things done. If we aren’t the ones prioritizing our life, someone else will. I’ve become much more adept at saying no. It’s a powerful word.

I’ve shared how I’ve scaled back on movie nights and even stopped playing volleyball, something I have enjoyed for decades. Volleyball is a huge time commitment. I have to drive to the club, play for two hours and then drive home. If we aren’t playing particularly well, I don’t even get a good workout. I realized I could take those three hours and use two of them for writing and one for the gym. I set my priorities.

Following McKeown’s book, I made an individual choice on how to spend my energy and time. The choice, though, also involved the “reality of trade-offs.” In other words, I couldn’t have it all or do it all. The result was no volleyball.

McKeown writes, “Everything changes when we give ourselves permission to be more selective in what we choose to do.”

What changed for me was more time for writing. I’m about to finish writing the first draft of a book. That’s a huge win for me. I’m not even focused on the rewriting, editing or pitching of it. I simply want to get the first draft finished.

I chose to focus on writing, and soon I’ll have a manuscript.

That was essential to me.

 

7 Nuggets of Career Advice

The other week I was fortunate to hear from four leaders in higher education. All four also were women. I’m not sure if that really mattered, but the event was billed about hearing from women leaders. And they did share challenges they had faced as women advancing in their careers.

Their stories resonated with me, and I took away several lessons.

Take advantage of opportunities. One of the leaders said she didn’t necessarily have a career path, but she took advantage of opportunities, particularly the ones that excited her. She noted that paths always opened up new opportunities.

Say yes to the right things. One leader said she sometimes has problems saying no. “Perhaps it is a fear or a belief that it might close off some opportunity,” she said. She has learned, though, that only individuals know what they are trying to achieve. Her advice? We should stay focused on what we want, not what others want.

We should stay focused on what we want, not what others want. 

Follow your passion. You know what you love so talk about it and share it with others. Believe in yourself and be open to the next opportunity. Another leader urged audience members to discover what brings them joy.

Don’t set limitations. One leader said she had to give credit to how she was raised – specifically, without limitations. Consequently, she believed she could do whatever was important to her.

Find silver linings. One leader said that when something is negative, she thinks about the negative from multiple angles and tries to determine what could be positive or good about the situation. As she put it, “It’s a mind game that gives me a better perspective.”

Be strong. As a leader make deliberate choices about with whom you surround yourself. The leaders also encouraged amplifying the voices of women in the room in an effort to bring men and women into the conversation as co-equals. And don’t allow yourself to be pushed off to the end. One leader said she was at a conference and the last speaker (a male) had a plane to catch. She was asked if she would switch, and she said no, noting that he should have arranged his flight schedule according to when he was slated to speak.

Be open to mentoring or mentoring others. Find a mentor who will push you and provide you with different perspectives. If your mentor is just like you, “one of you is dispensable,” noted one of the leaders. Find someone with who you can have extensive conversations and talk in detail about your goals.

6 Steps to Plan a Successful Event

 

Birthday BalloonIn December I threw my sister a surprise 50th birthday party. I did it with by brother-in-law and while living in another state.

In another month, I’ll be part of team that is putting together a conference. I’ve lost track as to how many conferences I have put together.

When I tell others that I’m organizing an event, many cringe. They think it is too much work, no one will show up, or it will cost too much money. Those can all be true, but if you follow these six steps, you should have a successful event.

  1. Establish your goals. Why are you holding the event? The surprise party was to celebrate a milestone in my sister’s life. Knowing that helped define the other elements of the party. The conference I am organizing is intended to provide learning and networking opportunities for members.
  2. Identify a team. Events require a strong attention to detail. It’s helpful to have someone who is overseeing the event at a macro level, as well as individuals who can handle specific areas, such as speakers or logistics.
  3. Pick a date. If you have flexibility with the date, consider holidays and availability of speakers and how they could impact your event. You also want to give yourself enough time to plan the event.
  4. Create a task sheet. I’m always surprised when someone asks me to help with an event and I ask about the task sheet and am told they don’t have one. I can’t function without one. I build in all of the steps needed to pull off the event and note the due dates and anything I need to be aware of. I track the status of each task.
  5. Establish a budget. Registrations and sponsorships should cover all of your expenses and, ideally, provide you with profit. The surprise party didn’t need to make a profit, but we did need to consider the budget, which informed the venue, menu options and decorations.
  6. Evaluate the success. When I am organizing a conference for a group, I consider it a success if most members attended and said they learned something from the speakers or made a new connection. The surprise birthday party was a success because my sister was surprised and she told me later, “It’s exactly what I wanted for my birthday.” That’s the best evaluation I’ve ever received!

Invest in Yourself

Are you getting a tax refund this year? If so, how do you plan to spend it?

A vacation? A shopping spree?

Why not invest in yourself?

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Be bold! Color outside the lines and invest in yourself. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Identify what your goals are and then spend part of your refund (I’m hoping you received one!) on you. Maybe you have been wanting to join a professional group. Or perhaps there is a class you want to take or a conference you want to attend.

I’ve been fortunate in my career that my employer has supported me with one conference a year. However, I’m at work on a book (with two more in the wings) and my employer is not going to pay for me to join a mystery writers’ group or attend a conference focused on authors.

That’s on me.

And because it’s important to me, I save the funds so that I can participate in the group and attend the conference.

I also pay to be part of a group of communicators who hear monthly from Michael Smart about best PR practices. Sure, I’ve been at this business a long time, but I don’t always have time to identify the next great place to pitch (hint: it’s not The New York Times). Sometimes the calls reinforce for me that I am doing the right things and that I should stay the course.

I like what Michael shared in an email about the success of two individuals who continued to learn:

“The desire for continuous learning and improvement likely contributed the MOST to those people’s success,” he shared.

If you want to keep learning and growing and succeeding, investing in yourself may be the best investment you make.

 

 

Feeding the Content Beast

As a young reporter, I was tasked with producing a story each day the newspaper published. That meant finding six stories every week, week after week.

At first, I struggled. Then I developed sources. I learned to take a national story and localize it. I asked people what they wanted to read about. Before long, I always had plenty of stories. I could sometimes write an extra one and have it banked for the day when I couldn’t find a story. To this day, I appreciate a good evergreen story.

content-beast

To tame the content beast, find ways to repackage content and look for content in different places. (Photo by Cynthia Price)

Today one story can serve so many platforms with a bit of tweaking.

I gather information from an expert on campus, and I can pitch the information to a reporter, write a blog, send a tweet or post to Facebook. Depending on the story, I might also gather photos or shoot video.

Here are some ways to find content:

Create videos. When you interview a subject matter expert shoot a few minutes of video. When you share the footage, you may find others who are interested in writing about the subject. You also are helping the expert gain exposure and further develop their interviewing skills.

Repeat. I used to publish a tweet for each blog I wrote. But then I heard from several experts who pointed out that I was missing the audiences who weren’t on Twitter at the time I posted. I now schedule 5 to 7 tweets for every blog post I write. The result has been better engagement. The same holds true for tweeting media releases.

Speeches: If someone in your organization is speaking to a group, obtain a copy of her remarks in advance. You can identify some quotes to share in advance of the talk, and then do the same during and after. Include the handle of the organization she is visiting so others will share, too.

Website: Your website can be a gold mine of content. Much of the evergreen information on your site is still new to many and it’s worth sharing. You also can highlight new content.

The key to always having good content is to post on multiple platforms. The easiest way to do that is to create a content or editorial calendar. To learn more about such calendars, visit this post.