Even the most famous authors cringe at the thought of yet another book tour. But a media tour is an essential task in promoting a book or a product.
Media tours of any kind are grueling. If you’re an author, or represent an author or do PR for a consumer products company, you know the routine: traveling from city to city, early morning interviews, rushing to catch the next plane, missing meals and some unprepared broadcast hosts.
You can relieve the stress by following basic “rules of the road” which you can learn with media training. We’ve coached many authors and product spokespersons and know that with coaching and by understanding the ground rules, you can look and sound your best, even if you’re dead on your feet and would rather take a nap.
Know Your Key Messages
A book tour interview is just like any other meeting with a reporter. You’ve got to pick your two to three key messages and deliver them early on in the interview.
You may only have time for one key message on television. Think in sound bites. Have anecdotes ready to support your points. Preview the show so you understand the format and the host’s interviewing style. You can usually find clips on YouTube or on the station’s website.
Before Your TV Appearance
If you’re pitching the author, talk to the producer and send them a copy of the book; include a short summary of the content and a discussion guide. You’ll be amazed at how often the host will follow your script, as more than likely, s/he hasn’t read the book. Bring copies of the book and discussion guide with you.
Post-it Notes are a great invention. They are useful as bookmarks for content relevant to your key points. Once you’ve inserted a Post-it, the host can open the book at the right place and say, “tell me more about this.”
If your book is about a product, send one in advance to the producer and ask if you can demonstrate it during the interview. If your product is portable, bring one with you, too, in case the first one gets misplaced.
What to Wear on TV
Wear clothing that is comfortable and telegenic. Look like the best version of yourself rather than a copy of someone else’s style.
- Choose blues, tan, peach and shades of gray. Avoid dark colors.
- Wear wrinkle-free clothes that are not too heavy as studio lights are hot.
- Avoid patterns and stripes, which may appear too busy on the screen.
- Dress for business, not for a dinner party.
- Do your own makeup. If the show has a makeup person, follow her advice.
When you’re in a new city, you don’t have time to get lost. So hire a driver to take you to your interviews. Don’t feel obliged to entertain the escort. Your job is to take a breath, chill out, listen to some soothing music and give your voice a rest. If you have to drive yourself, use a GPS and pre-program it to the sites you’re visiting.
Carry an emergency kit with water, cough drops, Tylenol, Band-Aids and snacks if you don’t have time for a real meal between appointments. Bring an extra pair of eye glasses for that “just in case” moment.
What’s Different About Radio?
Radio interviews have their own special requirements. You’ve got to paint a verbal picture for the audience because they can’t see you. Be enthusiastic. Let your personality shine through.
Richard Weiner, an award-winning PR pro and author, suggests spokespeople should bring visuals to a radio interview even though listeners can’t see them. Props help both the author and interviewer in painting the picture.
As on TV, you can give your book to the interviewer with Post-its marking the content you want to discuss.
Be cautious about agreeing to appear as a guest on radio call-in shows. The book author may be just a prop for the host. These “shock jock” shows tend to be all about the hosts and not the guest or the subject matter.
Often there are two hosts who joke back and forth and trivialize everything. You need to let them be funny and go back to your talking points. Be cautious. Do they screen the calls and weed out the callers who have their own agenda? If you do book a spot on one of these shows, be prepared for the conversation going in a dozen different directions that you might not be able to control.
Talking to Print Reporters
Arrange for a quiet place for the interview – not a noisy coffee shop. An alcove in a hotel is always a good bet, or choose a restaurant at an off-peak time or at teatime where you can have some privacy.
Arrive at least ten minutes early. Set a finite amount of time for the interview. Thirty minutes is about right. Any longer and you can start getting into trouble if the reporter decides to go off topic.
Reporters are busy people and guard their time. We once worked with a young fashion designer whose PR agency had scheduled an interview with a reporter on site during fashion week. Everyone but the designer was there at the assigned time. After 15 minutes, the reporter left and it’s a sure bet she will never give that designer a positive mention in any of her future stories.
Conserve Your Energy
Media tours can sap all your energy. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep. Before an early morning interview, relax by humming in the shower. Chew gum to get your facial muscles moving.
Most of us wake with a croaky throat in the morning. Traveling alone, you might never talk before finding yourself on air for your first interview. Just like any performer, you need to warm up. That’s why a media tour is one time when talking to yourself in public is perfectly acceptable!
If you, or one of your clients, are embarking on a media tour of any kind, follow these “rules of the road.” You will do well and establish yourself as a trusted source for future interviews.
- How to Answer Questions From a Reporter Without Messing Up (presenting-yourself.com)
- TODAY Show Celebrates 60 Years of Being Picky About Choosing Guests (presenting-yourself.com)
- Interviewer: Put a sock in it (scripting.com)