Resources for Writers
Capitalising on Opportunities
Noeleen McGrath is an award-winning television news journalist and media coach based in Chicago. She started out her career in television news as a producer for network news giant CNN, and went on to become a TV news reporter and presenter. Among her many awards, is the prestigious National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Feature.
Here Noeleen gives writing.ie her tops tips to ensure you make the most of every media opportunity you get:
Whenever a pitch has hung up in my strike zone, I’ve crushed it.
When I was a reporter at CNN, if I saw a way to walk around the yellow-taped perimeter of a crime scene to talk to a cop about a murder, I did.
When I was recently upgraded to first class on a flight — and a very successful R&B singer asked me what I did for a living– I told him all about my business. (He asked me for a card.)
My point: I’ve always known how to capitalize on opportunities when they’ve been presented to me.
The saddest thing a client I was media training ever said to me was: “I had a great soundbite all worked out, but the reporter never asked me the right question!”
“Never, ever wait for a reporter to ask you the right question,” I said. “Take control of the interview.”
If you pay attention, there are always openings and opportunities to work in your messages. But you have to be able to recognize them and think quickly on your feet to capitalize on them.
Being able to see and seize these opportunities requires a certain mindset.
Recently, one of my twitter followers (@ShannonPaul) shared a blog post Erik Calonius wrote about lucky people. He discussed a study in which people were given a newspaper. They were then asked to count the number of photographs in the paper.
Some “lucky” people finished in a few seconds while other “unlucky” people took two minutes. What was the difference? The “lucky” people read the answer on page 2 of the newspaper, “’Stop counting. There are 43 photographs in this newspaper.’”
How did the “unlucky” people miss that?
Calonius quotes the author of the study.
“’Unlucky people miss chance opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else… Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there, rather than just what they are looking for.’”
The same holds true for media interviews. If you’re so worried about what the reporter is going to ask you and how you’re going to respond, you’re never going to be able to capitalize on opportunities within an interview.
Instead, try to relax. Focus on what the reporter is asking and quickly assess how you can work in messages that you want to express. If you see this interview as an opportunity, not an ordeal, your chances of success are greatly improved!
Preperation is the key to every successful interview. Before you go in/they call, write a check list of items YOU want to cover. Noeleen has given us her top tips for ensuring you mention your book or project and give it the best plug you can:
1. In two or three sentences describe what your book is about. Highlight the best parts of the book. Make me want to run out and buy it. Practice this sentence until it literally trips off your tongue. Have it ready when anyone asks what your book is about, or even if they don’t, be prepared to steer the conversation to include it.
2. Who is your audience? Try and make this as broad as possible and address iy. For example, ‘mothers and fathers will find this book really useful when talking to their children. It’s also great for aunts and uncles, grannies and grandads. Really, it’s for anyone, who wants to have a better relationship with the teenager in his or her life’
3. Is there something going on in the news right now that ties in with your book? If there is, it could help you get publicity for your book. For example, if you’ve written a book about hurling in Kilkenny, you should be promoting yourself as an expert the week before the All-Ireland. Tell radio and television news producers that you’d be delighted to discuss the history of the Cats on their programs this week. Make sure you promote your book while you’re on the show i.e. As I wrote in my book, Up the Black and Amber, Noel Skehan was the greatest goalkeeper of all time.
4. How can I, the reader, learn more about you and your book? Do you have a website? Make sure you have and make sure you mention it.
5. Where can I buy the book? ‘Eason’s is carrying it locally. It’s also available on Amazon.’ Make sure you mention your name and the book title! Have business cards or bookmarks printed with the name of your book and perhaps a quotation or blurb as well as your contact details – be ready to hand them out!
© Noeleen McGrath 2011
Noeleen McGrath is an award-winning television news journalist and media coach. She started out her career in television news as a producer for network news giant CNN, and went on to become a TV news reporter and presenter. Among her many awards, is the prestigious National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Feature.
After 12 years in TV news, Noeleen started her career in corporate communications, focusing on media training and presentation skills coaching. In 2005, Noeleen founded McGrath Communications. She has coached corporate executives, professional athletes, attorneys, doctors, sales executives, politicians, fitness experts, school officials and mining industry spokespeople.
For more information, check out her website: www.McGrathComm.com or you can follow her on twitter: @McGrathComm (For those who are interested, her mother is from Donegal and her father is from Kilkenny. While she was born and raised in Chicago, she used to spend her summers in Ireland)