Friday, September 11, 2009

Do you need a Media Coach?

Back when I was doing promotion for my novel about open adoption, Girls in Trouble, it surprised me that suddenly I was controversial. On my first radio show, some callers attacked me for what they saw as my views on adoption (I kept repeating, "It's one fictional story!") and I was never quite sure how to respond. I stumbled. I said the wrong things and I felt like a fool. Desperate, I called a friend, a media coach, who told me to come on over and she would show me what to do for the next time. In less than a few hours, she showed me how to respond to anger ("I understand what you are saying, but..."), how to deflect the ire back to my talking points, ("I absolutely hear you, and what I think is...") and how to calm things down. A week later, I was on NPR's Diane Rehm, and when the calls began, I was prepared. To my astonishment, as soon as I said, "I understand what you are saying, but..." in a calm voice, the caller also calmed down. I was happy, the callers were happy, the show was a success.

Media coaching can be invaluable. With that in mind, I thought to get one on here and ask her some questions: Vickie Jenkins runs Performance Power Media Coaching. Thank you so much for being here, Vickie.

You're a writer and a media coach. Does one skill help the other?

Absolutely. Whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction, poetry or screenplays, my writing puts me in the shoes of my clients. We get quite connected to our creative product, but we need to release it to the world, and be comfortable talking about it, inviting people to read it, and BUY it.

What exactly does a media coach do and why do writers need one before they hit The Today Show?

Whether you’re appearing on your local radio or TV show, or speaking to a handful at the bookstore or to a thousand at a conference, you’ve got to be on top of your game to communicate well. There’s no need for a panic attack, once you learn the skills. Professional media training gives you insight into the media’s needs PLUS the tools and discipline you can use daily to do well in all types of communication environments.

What do you think the three top mistakes are that writers make before they go on radio or TV?

1. Not getting media coaching.

2. Not getting media coaching.

3. Not getting media coaching.

Seriously. It’s painful for me to watch a TV interview show where the author has this incredible opportunity and wonderful information to share, but they’re sweating, eyes darting around, obviously not prepared. People think if they just join Toastmasters or have their friends help them practice they’ll “do OK.” When you’ve been media trained by an expert, you’re ready to EXCEL in all types of communications venues, because you learn how to present your information in an entertaining and concise way that is AUDIENCE-FOCUSED. You will touch people’s lives, and get callbacks for more appearances and sell more books. It doesn’t take long to learn this discipline, and it’s something you will use an entire lifetime.

But specifically to your question, three common mistakes are: Not staying concise to the interview time frame; forgetting to mention their book title; not prepping the entire ‘package’ – clothing, hair, body language.

You originally were a reporter and news anchor so how did you get involved in media coaching?

When I was the morning news anchor/news director at the top-5 San Francisco radio station KOIT AM/FM, I hosted a weekly public affairs show and often interviewed authors who were out on their book tours. Before we went on I would get the author relaxed and focused, knowing that the better THEY performed, the more my audience would stay tuned in. After the interview ended authors would invariably turn to me, smile and say, “Wow, that was fun! Thanks for the tips ahead of time. I wished I’d met you BEFORE my book tour started, because it’s been trial by fire.”

The light bulb went off over my head and I said, “Aha! That is my next career!” The radio news business was incredibly exciting, yet exhausting, getting up at 3:30 AM every day for 20 years, and I was looking for a new challenge.

So I said goodbye to my media buddies & audience and set up Performance Power Media, designing coaching programs specifically addressing an author’s needs—staying healthy and focused on the tour, excelling at radio, TV, and print interviews, and acing readings & book signings to sell more books. I also media train executives for their interviews on CNN, CNBC, etc. and work with sales teams and business owners on their media interviews, speeches and presentations. I’m based in Los Angeles, but travel all over the world and also teach online. It’s great fun.

What kind of fiction do you write, and do you follow your own media advice when it comes to presenting yourself for PR opportunities?

Last year I self-published a poetry book just for fun, to test out what I’d been teaching. It was great to be in the trenches at book fairs, doing readings, selling books, etc. As for my fiction…I’m in the process of shopping around a couple of film scripts, and am writing a trilogy of murder mystery novellas about a 1950s L.A.P.D. detective.

Are there any clients you won't take--and why not?

I will only take people who are ready—and willing—to do the work. I use this analogy: If you want to learn to run a marathon, you don’t read a book about it and run out the door, you EXERCISE, get a good coach, and PRACTICE. Then when you cross the finish line you’re tired, happy, and know you’ve really accomplished something.

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

What does media training cost? The bigger question is, what will it cost you to NOT get the help you need to make anything you dream actually happen? That’s what focused communications skills give you. Those skills are the keys that open many, many doors. The investment you make will serve you every day of your life. I always congratulate clients on taking that first step. They never regret it.

Vickie is offering a ten percent discount on her class: Book Tours: Media Signings & More, Feb 18th, Friday, limited to ten people. She'll also be available for hands-on training in San Francisco Oct 6-9. For more info contact

Vickie Jenkins

Performance Power Media Coaching



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