Media Coaching is the practice of helping someone become comfortable with dealing with the media, whether it’s a phone interview, on-air appearance, or talk show sit-down. Media coaching is most often used by political candidates and CEOs, but can also be used cost-effectively by both first-time and best-selling authors to help prepare for the spotlight.
One of the elements that many authors don’t consider is the aspect of actually becoming a success with their book. What happens when a talk show (be it a radio show, or on-air sit-down program) or magazine wants to talk to you about your book?
How do you prepare for questions you can’t anticipate, whether personal or specific to the book itself? To make your book successful, you can’t simply “hide out,” but need to be as available as possible when somebody wants to talk to you about your book.
The answer to this quandary is to use a “Media Coach.” Professional athletes, political figures, and corporate CEOs all rely on a media coach to help them prepare for this kind of setting which, for most people, is a level above everyday stage fright.
But what exactly is media coaching?
Media coaching, or training, is usually one-on-one or group training where scenarios are played out and answers to potential questions are worked out and drilled to a comfort level.
Political candidates in 2004 widely used media coaches who provided “talking points” to ensure there was a consistent message in response to media questions. These talking points are really a fancy name for bullet points, and in simplest terms would be a list of the features and benefits about your book (or in politics, a candidate), and then answers to potential questions. They are like mental “cue cards” where you’re pre-prepared for any kind of topic of question, and have an answer ready to go that is both comfortable and confident.
Of course, most media coaches charge thousands of dollars for a full time engagement, and build either campaign or public meeting strategies on a day-to-day basis. For most authors (except maybe those who pen best-sellers) this is impractical from both a cost and time standpoint.
However, a new breed of professional media coaching firms have sprung up to service the growing number of home-based businesses, self-publishing authors and independent musicians/bands, who have a genuine need for this kind of service – but don’t have thousands of dollars for a full time coach.
For example, a phone-based training and coaching session can cost as little as $500 through companies like Send2Press® (www.Send2Press.com) which has professional corporate media trainers available who make their time available when not serving the “bigwigs.” An on-site, half-day media training package starts at $1500 plus travel expenses.
According to Vickie Jenkins, a professional media coach, former broadcast journalist, and a presidential media performance commentator on Fox Network, “Anyone who wants to ease their fears and concerns about interviews, and learn how to make the best impression in their interactions with the media will benefit from training. The communication skills you learn in media training can be used every day — in speaking to an audience of one or one million.”
Jenkins has helped authors who have been interviewed on CNN, Oprah, The Today Show, and National Public Radio, as well as numerous popular magazines.
“I help prepare authors for all types of book-selling situations,” says Jenkins, “including media interviews, book signing events, and public speaking engagements. I teach authors how to review their information and pull out the most interesting points for the audience, get grounded and focused to ease stress and raise their confidence level, adapt their information for long versus short interviews, and learn ‘insider’ tips for a successful radio or television interview. I also consult authors on wardrobe, make-up and voice preparation.”
She points out that helping authors get to the essence of their information is critical, and one of the most important aspects of what a media coach can do.
For example, you should be able to sum up your book in one succinct vivid sentence, because interviews often begin with a general question such as, “what’s your book about?”
Media trainers also put you on-camera to videotape your practice interviews, for playback and critique. Many people have no idea what type of communication their body language, voice, facial expressions, or comments make, until they watch the playback. The coach will help you adjust your performance, and practice it until it is polished.
This kind of offering gives first-time authors the same level of expertise that a best-selling author might have, and can even be an included element for writing a book proposal where most authors are now called upon to include at least a sketch of a potential marketing plan.
Concludes Jenkins: “A media-savvy coach can review your material for ‘quotable quotes’ and ‘hot topic’ media message, as well as interesting passages to read at bookstore appearances.”
“When you search for a media coach, look for someone with on-air or reporter expertise, who is also a good coach. The media trainer can’t just be a good reporter, he or she has to be able to coach others — to make authors comfortable enough to help them push through personal barriers and excel in interviews. That doesn’t come through ‘combat training.’ You need a supportive, yet focused coach.”
Media coaching is something that every new author should seriously consider in the overall scope of their promotion campaign, whether self-published or when a book has been published through a major publisher.
If you’ve ever wondered how certain authors and other professionals can look so calm, collected, focused, and ready for any question, chances are they have used a media coach to get them in the game.
Article Copr. © 2004 Christopher Laird Simmons — All Rights Reserved.
Christopher Simmons is a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), as well as ASCAP and the National Writers Union, and has written for over a dozen national magazines covering technology, imaging, and entertainment. He is an award winning art director, photographer, musician, and has composed theme music for two cable TV programs. He is the founder of Neotrope®, a brand identity and marketing firm, as well as Send2Press(R) Newswire (www.send2press.com). He is also the author of the forthcoming book, “ALT.PR – A Guide to Self Promotion in the Internet Age” (Neotrope Press).