Media Training: Why Nobodys Listening to You

SORRY?WERE YOU SAYING SOMETHING?

Many spokespeople approach media interviews the same way they would a major speech. They think at length about what they want to say, jot down a few notes, and try to memorize a few key points.

But they rarely practice how they're going to deliver their messages. It's often a fatal mistake.

Here's a shocking truth: how you say something during a broadcast interview is more important than what you say.

Research has borne this out for decades. UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian's landmark study in the 1960s examined how people derive meaning from communications. The release of the findings, still taught in virtually every university's Communications 101 class, is still regarded as a watershed moment in communications. Dr. Mehrabian found that:

7 percent of meaning is derived from word choice. 38 percent of meaning is taken from verbal cues, such as volume, pitch and pace. 55 percent of meaning results from non-verbal cues, including body language, eye contact, gestures, and appearance.

NOBODY'S LISTENING TO YOU

Do these statistics mean that the media ? or audiences ? are hopelessly superficial? Well, let's put it another way. Think about traveling to another country where the residents speak only a local tribal language. Even without words, you could still learn some very important things about a person ? such as whether you like or trust them, whether they are warm or cold, welcoming or distant, smart or dumb.

The same is true during media interviews. Audiences will quickly determine whether or not they like you or trust you in seconds. If they don't, they will effectively tune you out and disregard your message.

So it's not so much that they're not listening to you, but that they'll listen only once you pass the non-verbal test.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

How can you improve your non-verbal communication skills? Here are three tips you can use immediately:

1) Maintain Strong Eye Contact ? Before every broadcast interview, ask where to look. Sometimes it's at an interviewer, others it's off to the side of a camera, and sometimes it's directly into the camera. Regardless, make sure you maintain eye contact through the entire interview. It may feel strange to speak naturally to a lens. But since your eyes will appear much larger on a 27" television set, any movement will be distracting to the viewer. Worse, they may think you slick, unconfident, or untrustworthy.

2) Smile ? Unless you're a representative for an airliner that just crashed, it's usually a good idea to smile during an interview. Remember ? you shouldn't sublimate the things that make you charming in your everyday life. If people react positively to your smile or natural laugh in real-life, use that trait to your advantage during an interview.

3) Dress the Role ? If you're a spokesperson for a populist grassroots political group and show up in a three piece suit, you will confuse the audience. Clothes communicate messages, and you should consider carefully what your clothes are saying. Gold cufflinks scream "elite." Two-toned men's shirts may communicate "stuffy." Conversely, an ill-fitting collar reflects carelessness.

MESSAGE DISCONNECTS

When a verbal message and non-verbal message are in conflict, the audience will notice and hold it against you. When preparing for an interview, role play questions with a colleague, spouse, or even just a video camera. Keep practicing until what you're saying and how you're saying it appear in synch.

The first President Bush leaned this the hard way.

Things were not looking good for him in the autumn of '92. Despite a whopping 89 percent approval rating the previous year, Mr. Bush couldn't shake his reputation for being out of touch with the American people.

He didn't help himself during a very public trip to a grocery store when he expressed amazement at the bar code scanners that had become commonplace. He further fed his aloof reputation when he revealed having no clue what a gallon of milk costs.

But the real whopper came during the second presidential debate. In a town hall format in which Mr. Bush needed desperately to look like a populist, he instead kept glancing at his watch. He told the audience he wanted to be president ? but his body language told the world he wanted to be anywhere but with actual voters.

Immediately following the debate, numerous pundits said his poor performance would cost him the election. They were right.

Brad Phillips is the founder and president of Phillips Media Relations. He was formerly a journalist for ABC News and CNN, and headed the media relations department for the second largest environmental group in the world.

For more information and to sign up for free monthly media relations and media training e-tips, visit http://www.PhillipsMediaRelations.com.

In The News:


pen paper and inkwell


cat break through


Publicity: Write a Letter to the Editor for Free Publicity

Ever wonder why papers devote a page or more to... Read More

Are You Newsworthy?

Non-news professionals often have a hard time understanding why their... Read More

Managers: Heres a PR Template for You

Let's start out with a caution for business, non-profit and... Read More

What Some Pros Know About PR

They know they had better do something positive about those... Read More

How Would You Ever Know?

Your important outside audiences behave in ways that stop you... Read More

Marketing-Minded Financial Planners, Create Your Very Own Story to Get Free Publicity

One big mistake that many marketing-minded financial planners make when... Read More

How to Keep PR Working for You

Managers in the non-profit, association and business worlds need to... Read More

Right PR Empowers a Manager

Business, non-profit and association managers are in a stronger position... Read More

Keep The Publicity Machine Rolling with Reprints

More than half of America skips the Super Bowl, the... Read More

Can Your PR Do This?

Can your PR do something positive about the behaviors of... Read More

How to Tap in to the Holiday Publicity Bonanza

If your product or service can be given as a... Read More

Detailing The Famous Kentucky Derby Train

The annual detailing of the Kentucky Derby Train is an... Read More

Add Some Firepower to your PR

Sure, as tactics usually presented to business, non-profit and association... Read More

Life After Press Release Distribution?

A few weeks ago I was participating on an on-line... Read More

PR: Time For a New Playbook?

When your public relations results pretty much depend on whether... Read More

Do I Really Need a Publicist?

Are you hesitating about hiring a publicist or, if you... Read More

Top Ten Tips for Writing your Best Press Release Ever

Keep these few crucial details in mind when writing and... Read More

Killing Them Softly

The world has woken up to ethical issues in corporate... Read More

PR: Lets Talk Fundamentals

How much more fundamental can you get than this? As... Read More

Levines Laws For Pitching With Panache

Excerpted from "Selling Goodness- The Guerrilla PR Guide To Promoting... Read More

Internet Etiquette for Business Success

You're trying to recruit a downline into your program, you've... Read More

PR Power: How to Write a Killer Press Release

I'm what we in the business (the "business" being journalism)... Read More

How to Form a Relationship with a Newspaper

How do you make a good relationship with a newspaper... Read More

Managers: Why Not PR Like This?

I mean public relations that presumes from the get-go that... Read More

Media Exposure Validates And Legitimizes Your Business

Although repetition is extremely important, there are times when advertising... Read More

Publicity - Tips on Dealing With the Media

You thought of it, you researched it, you wrote it.... Read More

Can Newbies Avoid The Pitfalls?

Yes indeed! If you are a young person who has... Read More

10 Tips to Give Your Press Release The Edge It Needs to Make the News

Writing a press (or media) release is quite an art... Read More

Making Press Releases Work - Creating News Where None Existed

Aren't you tired of hearing how extremely easy it is... Read More

PR: Heres All You Need to Know

Above all, you need to know that the right PR... Read More

PR Where it Matters Most

What's more crucial to the success of a business, non-profit... Read More

Public Relations & Your Small Business

The practice of public relations is often misunderstood, thus overlooked... Read More

How PR Helps Managers Win

Anything that lets managers achieve their managerial objectives is a... Read More