Critique of the Week: Lessons From an Ambush Interview

You have seen these “ambush” interviews before. The reporter approaches a person accused of doing wrong when they are least suspecting it. They wait for them outside their place of work, approach them as they step out of their home or simply try and barge through the front door of that office/home and demand answers.

Recently a Valley Salon owner got to experience it first hand.


So what can we learn from this woman’s experience?

1. It can happen to you. This is a salon owner, apparently struggling financially, no matter her struggles you can bet she did not expect to be the lead story on the local evening news.

2. As a former journalist I participated in this type of interview. 90% of the time we made at least 2 attempts to schedule a sit down interview before proceeding with an ambush interview. I do not know if that happend here, but for most journalists this type of interview is not their first course of action.

A scheduled sit down interview would have given this woman the opportunity to collect her thoughts, decide what her message is and how she plans to deliver it. It would also give her the time to call a professional like myself.

3. Don’t shut the door. Shutting the door in the reporter’s face sets you up for punishment. By doing that you appear to be running and who runs? The guilty. The bad guy.

By shutting that door you also pretty much guarantee the TV station is going to play that clip over and over again in promos and teases for that night’s newscast.

What you should do is tell them you will sit down with them in one hour. Do not answer any questions at that time. Explain to the reporter off camera that you understand how bad it will look if you do not show up for that interview in an hour and that you will be there.

Then call a media coach or your PR agency immediately.

4. This business owner did come back and do an interview, but it did her no good. She was mad, defensive and continually contradicted the reporter. She was not prepared.

In this economy she could have easily gone from the villain to the victim. By explaining that times are tough, she is very sorry for the situation but like many small business owners she is struggling, she could have changed the direction of the story. She then should have told the reporter she now has the money and will pay the women immediately.

5. Had this business owner had a media crisis plan in place the outcome would have been much different.

As business owners we create business plans, sales plans, evacuation plans, but we don’t prepare for a media emergency.

Why? We don’t believe it can happen to us. Whether it is an angry former employee airing your dirty laundry, a lawsuit, a recall or a social media blunder, it can happen to you. It happens to people like you everyday. When handled poorly by the company this type of coverage ruins reputations and can put businesses under. Be prepared.

3 Ways to Take Your Public Speaking Up A Notch

Whether you are a public speaking rookie or a member of Toastmasters, there are always ways to improve. Here are 3 of my favorites.

Do A Little Acting.

When you are public speaking you are putting on a show and you should think of it that way. To improve your performance think about 3 of your favorite speakers; they could be broadcast journalists, your pastor, a big name motivational speaker or even a co-worker. Make a list of the things you enjoy about their delivery. Study them. Then steal some of your favorite speaking traits and techniques. Try them on for size. At first it will feel like you are “acting” like that person and you are, it’s okay. The more you try it on, the more that technique or tone will transition into your own.

Never Wing It.

This is one of the biggest mistakes speakers make. You start to become comfortable speaking to an audience and so you stop preparing. Because you’re no longer nervous in front of the crowd, you assume you can wing it.

Preparation is always a part of public speaking. You owe it to your audience. Can you get by winging it? Yes, but think of how much better your performance could have been had you prepared. At the very least you should review your 3 main messages and how you plan to deliver them before every performance. If you do this speech or seminar on a regular basis and know the content inside and out, you probably won’t need a while lot of prep. But perhaps its time to change things up! How can you revamp, the same old speech? Challenge yourself. If you’re having fun with it, your audience will too!

Audience Participation is a Must.

Who wants to just sit and listen anymore? Not me. The new world of social media lets us participate in practically everything. Live audiences want the same.

Get their feedback on topics during your speech. Leave time for some back and forth on certain points of interest or debate. Ask people to share examples from their lives/businesses. Pick out audience members to participate in exercises that help demonstrate your points. Encourage participation throughout your performance, not just during a Q & A at the end.

Lecturing to a silent audience is no long an option. Have fun and get interactive!

What are some of your favorite ways to encourage audience participation? Comment below!

5 Mistakes to Avoid During Your TV Interview

A television interview can be a great thing for your business and image or it can make you a laughing stock. Here are a few mistakes you don't want to make during your next appearance.

1. Looking at the Camera. Often people don't know where to look during their television interview and it's apparent. You end up darting back and forth between the camera and the reporter looking lost, confused and unprofessional. Look at the reporter. If you have a prop look at it while you talk about it. Leave looking directly into the camera to the talent.

2. Calling the reporter the wrong name. Come on folks. Do a little homework or better yet, just don't say the person's name at all. This has happened to me during interviews and I know it has happened to pretty much every anchor, host and reporter I know. This looks very bad to the viewers that regularly watch these people, and know their names. Your credibility goes way down with them and so do your chances of being asked back for a future interview.

3. Being rude and/or defensive. This goes for before, during and after an interview. I don't care what the interview is about, how much of a hurry you are in or how much you hate the reporter; be professional. Pissing off the reporter is great way to ensure they pick soundbites that make you look like an idiot. Being defensive or rude during an interview just makes you look untrustworthy to the viewer. Kill 'em with kindness is a much better motto.

4. Repeating or agreeing with the reporters negative question. This is just what the reporter wants when they ask you a leading negative question. EX. “Your company really seems to be in trouble right now?” WRONG ANSWER: “This is a tough time, but we're making an effort to change things.” BETTER ANSWER: “We are taking advantage of this transitional time at our company to take actions that will make our business stronger than ever.” (then give examples of those actions)

5. Answering a question, when you don't really know the answer. There is nothing worse than guessing or making something up that can and will come back to bite you. If you don't know the answer tell the reporter: “I don't have that information/data/answer right now, but I will find out and get it to you.” Call or email them with the information they need that day.

What are some examples of mistakes you've seen made during interviews? Send us some links of the bad television interviews you've spotted!


Web videos: Is yours helping or hurting you?

So you’re on the internet video bandwagon or perhaps you’re thinking about jumping on? I hear it all the time; “So and so from my networking group says he can shoot a video for my website….  So and so says I need a video to increase my SEO.”

Great! Increase your SEO, be a part of the internet video revolution, be current, plus it’s pretty much free marketing right?  Sounds awesome.

Here is the problem….you’ve never been on camera before!!! Many of you rarely even speak to an audience.

This is your new client’s first impression of you!!!

If someone is thinking of hiring you the first thing they do is go to your site. If you have a video there, they WILL click on it. Do you really want their first impression to be of you saying umm and uhh every other sentence? Looking like a deer in headlights? Sounding so rehearsed you appear robotic? Or so unscripted you appear unorganized and flighty?

Being on camera is not as easy as it looks. It is a craft that takes years to develop, so what makes you think you can do it on a whim?

I don’t mean to be harsh here, but I see so many web videos either looking like infomercials or amature hour. It’s painful. Yes, it many help your SEO, but it may hurt your bottom line; unless you do it the right way!

Doing it the right way:

  • Prepare! Look at other people’s videos. Decide what you like and what you don’t. Steal ideas from the good ones and learn from the bad ones.
  • Ask your most honest friend/ harshest critic their opinion about your plan. Practice with them.
  • Hire a professional photographer/editor (At least for the main video on your site) (Contact me for references)
  • Finally don’t be afraid to get some help. This video will probably be on your site for years. Coaching is an investment you will be happy you made when you and your clients watch that video over and over again.

Bottomline Media Coaching can help you plan, prepare and practice. We can also give you the tools to take daily video blogs and updates to the next level.

If you’re not willing to put in some time and effort to make your website videos the best they can be, then it’s not the right medium for you.

The Hard Part About Telling Your Own Story

I have two clients with the same problem, they can talk about their business comfortably in front of a camera, dozens or even hundreds of people, but telling their own story is well, a different story.
These women have compelling life stories that people can learn from and they want to share, but delivering those messages has them flustered. They are not alone, when it comes to speaking about our real lives there are several challenges to over come.

First, you have to find a way to speak from the heart and check the emotions at the door, at the same time. When people are telling personal stories the same question comes up time and time again; “Is it okay to cry?” The short answer is yes. In fact the reporter or host would love to see some tears. The trick is to get it under control before it turns into the ugly cry and stops the flow of the interview. Knowing your message and anticipating the questions that will be asked will help you keep these emotions in check.

Second, you know everything there is to know about YOU, so editing is imperative! Be objective. Find a friend (or a media coach) tell them your story and ask them to help you narrow down the main points.

Finally, determine the reason for sharing this story. What can people learn from it and how can you teach them using your experience?

Telling personal stories connects you with your audience in a whole new way. When done correctly is can help you expand your brand and gain trust. If you need help determining what your message is email me: