Tips for promoting your news website or book on TV

Last week, I shared some tips for promoting your publication on the radio. This week, I’m expanding the list of tips to include ones specific to appearing on television.

All of the radio tips apply to TV, too. But on television, you’re adding a visual element to your presentation, one that can undermine your message if you don’t take the time and make the effort to work within the opportunities of the medium.

So prepare as you would for a radio interview – know your “talking points” and have those easy-to-remember facts and anecdotes ready. Warm up, but keep your cool when you’re on the air. And follow these tips, too:

  • Create a space in your office for TV appearances. You won’t need much, but you should at least get out your own video camera and use it to find a flattering visual context in which you can appear in case a crew wants to shoot you from your office. Ideally, you’ll have something with your site URL or book cover or masthead in the background. Think about all those newspapers who have set up TV backgrounds in their newsrooms. Personally, I recommend trying for a more natural look, like a real (but very clean and orderly) office, but do try to work a reasonable visual plug for your URL in there, too. A promotional poster on the wall next your desk works well. Make sure your preferred shot is well lit and that there are plenty of power outlets and a working phone landline within easy reach, too.

    I work out of a home office, which raises an additional issue. If the TV crew is coming by at an hour when the rest of the family is home, make sure you talk to the kids beforehand about how to behave when the crew is there. In short, keep quiet and stay out of the way.

  • Don’t wear stripes or patterns. Solid colors that flatter your skin tone work best on TV. If you don’t want to look boring, look for creative styles and cuts of clothing rather than wild prints or patterns. Pay closer attention to what anchors and reporters wear on screen and take your cues from them.
  • Don’t wear jewelry that will reflect or pick up light. Most non-professionals forget about lighting when they are working in TV or film. Ditch anything reflective or dangling when you’re on camera.
  • Have a place for a lav mic to attach. You’ll avoid an awkward moment with the camera crew if you’ve got a lapel or pocket where they can clip the mic.
  • Always say yes to the makeup. If you’re appearing in-studio, you might be offered the chance to get make-up before you go on. (This is rare, though. It’s happened to me only once.) If you get the chance, though, take it. Professional studio makeup will help soften your skin tone, reducing glare and making you look more “natural” on screen.
  • Turn off your cell phone. Notice that I didn’t say “put your phone on silent.” Turn it off. Not only do you not want the sound of a ringtone interrupting your interview, you don’t want the distraction of a buzzing phone breaking your concentration when you’re on the air.
  • If you have glasses, angle the tips up a bit from your ears. This will help angle your lenses down to avoid any potential glare from studio lights.
  • Sit up and lean forward slightly. This helps create the best posture for a TV appearance. You’ll look attentive and engaged, instead of slumped and disinterested.
  • Look at your interviewer, not at the camera. The interviewer will position himself or herself relative to the camera for the optimal angle. If you are appearing in a remote shot, and the interviewer is not there with you, do not look at monitor if there is one. Go ahead and look into the camera, instead. Wherever you look, though, keep your eyes focused on that point. Don’t allow your gaze to wander during the interview. That will make you look disengaged, uninterested and “shifty.”
  • If your hands are visible in the shot, keep them in the “strike zone.” For those of you who don’t follow baseball, that means keeping them in front of your torso, below mid-chest and above waist. (If you are standing in the shot, you also can just leave your hands at your side.) Don’t move your hands outside your torso. You want your hands to look natural, but gestures outside the “strike zone” space can look wild. Never put your hands in your pocket, either. That makes you look like you have something to hide.
  • Follow up after your interview with a thank-you note. This goes for radio appearances, as well as for TV. A thank-you email helps you maintain your professional connection with the team at the show that booked you, and helps improve the odds that they might invite you to return in the future.
  • As a journalist, you learned how to cultivate sources. As a publisher, you should apply that skill in cultivating relationships with other media outlets, as well. Your colleagues in radio and television can help you spread the word about your publication, and your credibility as a voice covering your beat. I hope you’ll embrace these tips to help you present yourself even more effectively through radio and television.

    Tips for promoting your news website or book on the radio

    When you achieve a leadership position in the journalism business – whether that be within a newsroom or running your own publishing business – promotion becomes an indispensable part of your work duties. You’ll need to become a spokesperson for your efforts – and that includes appearing on radio and television programs to promote your work and the brand name of your publication.

    In my experience, many reporters freak out at the thought of becoming a source. Especially a source on camera or on a live mic. But you don’t need to be nervous or feel intimidated. You’re a communications professional, after all. If you feel comfortable asking questions, you should feel comfortable answering them, too.

    Or, at least, you should feel comfortable with learning how to answer them. That’s what we’re going to talk about today, and next week, here on OJR. I’ll be listing some of my tips for writers and editors who need to appear on radio and television to promote their work. We’ll start with radio today, and add some television-specific tips next week.

    First, you need to get the gig. Use the contacts you’ve built during your career. If you’ve got a project, a site or a book that you think would be of interest to the audience at a particular show, reach out to the people you know at that program and offer yourself as a guest. Keep the focus on the audience, though. Don’t “pull strings” or call in favors to get on shows where you or your work isn’t a good match. That won’t help you build readership or sales, and will only damage your relationships with colleagues. (Not to mention their relationship with their employer. No one wants to be the one responsible for booking a bum guest.)

  • Do some research in advance of booking. Know who the host is, what the show’s about and who listens to or watches it. This is especially important when you are called or emailed with an invitation from a show you don’t know. I have no interest in being the subject of a live verbal assault, or of supporting with my presence shows that engage in verbally assaulting their guests. Nor do I have any interest in appearing on or supporting shows that actively seek to mislead the public. (It’s for those reasons that I have a standing policy of refusing invitations to appear on Fox News. And yes, I have been invited to appear on that network multiple times in the past.)
  • Keep your landline. Best case scenario is that you’re invited down to the studio for your radio appearance. You’ll enjoy the best sound quality, and you’ll get to look your interviewer in the eye as you speak. But most of the radio segments I’ve done have been over the phone. That’s pretty much the only reason why we’ve kept our landline at home. It provides the best vocal quality for radio interviews. Many stations will insist on conducting their interviews over landlines. If you don’t have one, they might choose a different guest, instead.
  • Prepare some anecdotes or fun facts that people can – and will – remember. Think of people talking in a bar here. You want to give them two, three, or four easy-to-remember facts or anecdotes that they can use to spread the word about whatever it is that you are promoting. Long, involved dialogs don’t work for this format. Find the sharpest data you have, and rehearse them so that you’ll be able to stick to those points.
  • Stretch before you go on. Fight nervousness by getting your blood moving with some simple stretches before you go on the air. Don’t overwork yourself to the point where you get winded, though. You just want to get your body relaxed and melt any physical tension that could harm your performance.
  • Thank the host by name when you start and when you end. If you are working with a producer who’s prepping you for the interview, make sure you ask for the host’s name or hosts’ names before going on, if he or she doesn’t tell you first. Addressing the host by name helps get you into the conversation and makes you sound like a more courteous guest to the audience. Remember, the audience knows the host better than they know you. If you make yourself sound like an old friend to the host, they’ll be more inclined to think of you as a friend, too.
  • Speak a bit louder than normal, a bit slower and with a bit more energy. You want to sound like a friendly, sympathetic, engaging person – someone a listener would want to hear talking. I try to remember to remind myself to move my eyebrows when I talk on the radio. I find that helps me to better animate my voice.
  • Speak in plain elementary-school English, always. Never use industry jargon or acronyms when you’re making a public appearance. Keep this in mind when you’re selecting those facts and anecdotes you wish to highlight. If you’re the office champion at Buzzword Bingo, you’re going to need to do some practicing not to sound like the boss everyone hates when you go on the air.
  • Number, rank or flag important points when you speak. Every second that you are speaking, the host and the audience are making decisions about whether to cut you off or tune you out. Buy yourself additional time by signaling when you’re about to say something important. Introduce your points by saying something like “Here’s the really important thing,” “There are three keys to that,” “The most important factor is” or something along those lines. Phrases like that signal to the host or audience that something good’s coming so they better stay with you.
  • Never, ever, ever get angry – no matter how much you feel provoked or misled during an interview. Again, try to avoid going on shows where you’re likely to be harassed or attacked. But if you feel challenged, rise to it by keeping your cool and making the best-supported point you can. Get angry and the audience will find it easy to turn on you. Never take that bait.
  • Try to mention your publication title or URL at least three times during the interview. You’re there to promote your work, after all. Even if you are commenting as an expert on your beat and not specifically to promote a new title, remember that your affiliation helps establish your credibility as a source. If the host doesn’t mention it, find a way to work in it. But your references must always be natural and fit within the context of your points. Don’t oversell – that kills your credibility with the audience.
  • Even on radio, eye contact remains important. Here’s a trick I learned from my wife. She often goes online and finds a picture of the person she’ll be speaking with over the phone, then keeps it on her computer screen while she’s talking. That helps you to remember that you’re in a conversation with a real person here, which will help you sound more natural on the air.
  • Remember, as always, that your audience knows more than you do. Don’t talk down. If you are taking questions from the audience during your appearance, don’t neglect to thank, reassure and even flatter your questioners. (That goes for the host, too.) Again, you want to come across as a pleasant, engaging and friendly person, no matter what subject you’re discussing.
  • Don’t get angry, frustrated or upset when you get cut off. Time’s short on the air, especially on commercial radio shows, which have a frenetic pace compared with public radio. Plan your points. Keep ’em short. Hit ’em quick, and be happy you had the time you did.
  • Next week: Tips for handling a TV appearance.

    Two authors' stories illustrate why some journalists profit online, and others fail

    An e-mail and a tweet last week pointed me to two blog posts that expressed completely different ways that two writers have addressed the challenge of a changing media marketplace. Their differing attitudes and approaches to publishing in the Internet era explain to me why one writer is enjoying unprecedented success, while the other writer laments a declining career.

    Let’s start with this post from author Joe Konrath, about his experience transitioning from a traditional book-publishing contract to self-publishing e-books.

    “With self-publishing, in a single month,” he wrote, “I was able to earn the same amount of money it took me four and a half years to earn through traditional publishing.”

    He crunched the numbers:

    So far this month, I’ve sold over 18,000 ebooks on Kindle.

    When I include Smashwords, Createspace, and Barnes and Noble, my income for January will be about $42,000.

    Last January, I made $2,295 on Kindle, and I was amazed I could actually pay my mortgage on books NY rejected.

    “Amazed” is no longer strong enough a word.

    In just 12 months, I’ve seen a 2000% increase in income. And ebooks are still only 11% of the book market.

    What happens when they’re 15%? 30%? 75%?

    And yet, I still see some writers clinging to the notion that getting a book contract with a Big 6 publisher is the way to go.

    But money isn’t the only reason ebooks self-publishing is preferable.

    Konrath goes on to detail the thousands of hours he spent driving to bookstores around the country, chatting up customers as he tried to convinced anyone to buy his books. His publisher didn’t want him to tour – since that would require paying bookstores – but without a tour, he couldn’t connect with consumers.

    I’ve heard from friends in the book business that publishing deals are getting even worse for authors: less promotion, less support and small advances and payments.

    Konrath chose not to accept the decline of his career. Instead, he chose to self-publish, using low-cost e-books instead of the expensive, but more traditional, print vanity press.

    The how-to of self publishing e-books would provide enough material for many, many other columns. So let’s leave this with the recognition that by rejecting a traditional career model, and becoming the publisher he used to work for, Konrath not only saved his career, he advanced it to a level he’s never come close to enjoying before.

    Contrast his attitude with the writer of this post: Who would want to be a travel writer?

    Today in 2011 it is almost impossible to be a full-time freelance travel writer unless you have a private income. Many of my contemporaries – well-known journalists and authors – have gone part-time, topping up their income writing corporate brochures, leading tours or – in one case – renovating bathrooms. Others have given up altogether.

    On the other hand, it’s a lot easier today to become a travel writer. When everyone has a blog there is no difficulty in getting published in the first place. And there are countless opportunities to see your name in lights – providing you don’t mind working for free.

    The author here seems unable to conceive any way for a travel writer to make an income other than getting a commission from a newspaper or magazine travel editor. He dismisses authors who write their own blogs as “working for free.”

    I’m biased here because I earn the bulk of my income as… a travel writer who publishes his own blog. The four-figure payments deposited into my account each month are quite real, thank you.

    I don’t write for free. I write for myself.

    To ensure that the second statement doesn’t equal the first, I have to do the work of a publisher in addition to the work of an author. That means building a website (or buying a block of ISBNs, if you’re to publish e-books), then finding an audience and building demand.

    If you’re not willing to do that work, and instead insist on waiting for someone to cut you a check before you put hands to keyboard, well, good luck chasing those dwindling advances and commissions.

    The irony? Those who put in the work of building a business often end up with more time to do the writing that they love. As Konrath wrote, he doesn’t have to press the flesh at bookstore any longer. He doesn’t have to devote time to promotion. With his social media support having reached a tipping point, he can spend more hours writing.

    I’ve found the same in talking with colleagues who are still pursuing freelance work. They spend hours of extra time for each piece they write networking with editors, writing pitch letters, reviewing contracts and filling out various publications’ expense forms. I just write stories – what, when and how I want.

    While some lament the loss of secure employment for a handful of writers, I’m thrilled to live in an era when anyone with the will to write and drive to connect with a community can earn a living, without having to wait for some editor’s approval.