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Ring, Ring! The 5 WORST Mistakes You Can Make When the Media Calls

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August 20,2014


By Susan Harrow, media coach, PR Expert, CEO,

At long last.

Your dreams have come true.

After all of your hard work — writing that press release, crafting a sizzling headline, working your connections and getting your pitch in front of the right person, at the right time, in the right way — the media wants to talk to YOU.

Whether it’s a 5-minute phone chat to get your expert perspective on the hot news story of the day, a 60-minute podcast interview, or a coffee date to profile YOU (squeal!) for a glossy magazine feature, you’ve got to be prepared.

You already know all the right things to do. (Be professional, be polite, double-check your calendar and alarm clock so you don’t accidentally snooze through the call).

But what about the worst mistakes you can make?

When the media calls, do NOT…

1. Be generic. The media doesn’t want generic information that anybody could find on Wikipedia. They want you to be a memorable, entertaining and even provocative guest, with stories that their audiences won’t soon forget.

Don’t dish out bland advice (“5 great outfits for your next job interview.”) Instead, tell a memorable story (“That one time I walked into Google HQ with my skirt tucked into my pantyhose…”) and THEN dish out your advice. “These 3 outfits could get you the job. This one could make you lose it.” The key? Tell a story that only YOU could tell. Because it happened… to YOU. (This also makes you un-copyable. No one else can steal that story.)


2. Be long-winded. Goldfish have longer attention spans than Americans. Literally. The average American attention span in 2013 was about 8 seconds. The average attention span in 2000 was 12 seconds. And, surprise! - the average attention of a goldfish is 9 seconds. Distill your story (and / or helpful tips) into the shortest possible nuggets — 10-30 seconds max. Admittedly, no easy feat. But do-able with practice. Lots of it.

If you’re chronically long-winded, invest in expert media training to help you become a sound bite master. (Truly: it’s one of the BEST things you can do for your business.)


3. Be unprepared. Before talking to you, the media have typically previewed your headshot, product photos, bio, social media profiles, and an advance copy of your book, if you’ve got one on the horizon. In other words, they vet you to see if you’re credible before they call. Don’t have those things ready, yet? You’d better hustle. The media isn’t known for its patience. It should all be in one neat place in your online presskit.

And don’t forget the four-minute video of you on a TV talk show. The media wants to know you’re mediagenic before inviting you as a guest. If you haven’t got one, do a mock interview where you’re smoothly responding to questions with ease with your seductive sound bites.


4. Be salesy. Yes, you’re appearing in the media because you want to promote yourself, your good work and your offerings. But the media isn’t calling you to get the low-down on your latest product, service or cause. They’re calling because you’re going to help them write — or record — a terrific piece of content that will educate, entertain or inspire their audience.

Plug your offerings subtly, by folding them into a story or lesson. (Think: “When I speak to corporations about how to be a great leader, the question I get asked most often is…” Not: “Let me tell you all about my latest offering for meeting planners to get speaking engagements.”)


5. Be somebody… else. Do not pretend to be someone you’re not. If you’re a nurturing relationship expert who advocates compassionate communication, above all else, don’t try to be a salacious, gossip-mongering sexpert. And vice versa.

The media wants you to be the BEST version of yourself — not a hack imitation of somebody else. This means you’re open to spontaneous, sincere reactions that show your audience who you really are and what you believe — even though you have your sound bite agenda. Oscar Wilde said it best, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”


Take care to avoid these 5 mistakes — and you’ll make it much easier for the media to do a good job. (And make you BOTH look good.)


Want to know what to do when the media calls? Hop on over to this webinar to learn the secrets of media stars. (Everyday people just like you who have learned how to do it right and got astounding results).



Susan Harrow is the author of the bestselling book, Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul, and the acclaimed media-training program, Your Signature Sound Bites. She lives in Northern California, where she spends her time writing, coaching, teaching, reading thrillers and throwing 200-pound attackers in the Dojo, while practicing Aikido.







Looking for way to communicate directly with journalists? Find out how our small business PR Tools can help.


Google+ profile of Susan Harrow, PR Secrets

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