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July 26, 2007

BlogHer 07 Live Blogging - Media Training Session

Worlddifference150x150_0thumbnail BlogHer Day One Session: Media TrainingCynthia Samuels  and The Sarcastic Journalist were the media training experts that explained the basic skills to help control how you are portrayed in the Media.

 Cynthia Samuels started out with a story: When her son was in the 10/11 grade he was studying Shakespeare in school. He did a project related to Romeo & Juliet where he created a tabloid called "family teens founded joint suicide". That is an example of how a subject can come out differently depending on the perspective of the writer.

Rachael has been on both sides, as a writer and being written about.

They started with getting an idea of what questions the audience had. Here is the first questions discussed:

QUESTION 1. Not being scared to take the interview, or how to say no if you do not want the interview.


Cynthia: The first step is to get the name, email and phone number and say that you will call you back to do a future story. Figure out what they want, what is the goal of the story from the reporter? Then you can decide if you want to talk to them or not.

From a publicity standpoint, it is good to send local reporters who cover related subjects emails or press releases about your writing. It is also good to make yourself visible by commenting on posts from mainstream blogs.

If you post about a topic that becomes a hot topic and you do not see it published anywhere else, contact the media. Girls getting periods were a hot topic on the iVillage message boards. So iVillage went to NBC to presented it as a developing phenomenon.

Audience question: Experiencing mental illness is not the same as giving advice, am I able to write a news story if asked giving advice?

Cynthia: Ask them if they want you to talk about it from a medical or experiential standpoint?

Audience comment: What works in reaching out to the press. I send them an email offering something similar. Or say "hey, here is a related link to your story". Or here is the topic I cover, if you cover anything related I hope you will contact me. Don't gush as a groupie, no need to compliment. Just state you blog url, if you published a book, a couple of ideas where you have spoke and written".

Audience comment: Profnet.com it is a searchable database that links journalists with experts. The "experts" need to pay to be on the site.

Audience comment: "I got linked to from the New York Times about a quote I made at a conference that got picked up at Wired. I only found out about it through a link, so check you links".

Audience member: What is an assignment editor, booker, editor, reporter - all these people who make decisions?

Cynthia: In TV, the assignment editors go to the same meetings as the producer. The producer asks the assignment editor to do specific tasks. During the day, assignment editors will make their own assignments for breaking news.

Bookers are assigned to find the "three best people to do X or Y". It is a good idea to contact bookers from local TV stations. Bookers may also be listed as "researchers". When I was in the Today Show, I had someone who could find me a left handed women in Southern Idaho.

Be a good detective, for example there is a reporter list on the New York Times.

Rachael: If you want someone to write about your food blog go to the food editor to educate them about your blog. To find editors, you can also just Google their names.

Audience member: I set a Google alert on "Kindergarten" and then comment on relevant news article or online sources about that subject.

: The one thing that will turn off a reporter FOREVER is if they think - you think they are in your pocket. They do it for the truth of the story, that is what keeps the reporter going.

Audience comment
: You can also put the reporter name in your Linked In profile.

Comment from audience: How to get the media's attention: Put the best product out possible. I am a writer, I am always looking for local sources. I use Google and put in "mom blogger Idaho". I would be reluctant to go to a database where people paid to be an expert. After I go to the Google search, I go to the websites and read the content. If it good, then I go back to contact them for the story.

What is the line between being persistent and being annoyed?

Rachael: I had to take my phone number away from my personal website because I kept getting calls on my cellphone. Sending me an email is ok, not a call. But I also have to wait for the higher ups to see if that person's quote will be mentioned so sometimes it is out of my control.

Cynthia: If a news item is time sensitive, then it is good to be persistent.

QUESTION 2: Soundbyte control and how not to mention too much when talking to the media.


Audience comment: I find it is really important to have soundbytes because I have a difficult time to stop talking.

Audience comment: When I speak in sound bites, I usually get into the story.

Cynthia: Ask what is it you need to know, what do you want for your story?

Audience comment: You need to be careful what your soundbyte is. We realized that there is not a soft launch. When I was talking to a reporter, I said our web site is like Digg for women - and then the reporter ran with it. Then some women said "You mean Digg is not for women."

Cynthia: Message discipline is how people win debates, campaigns. If you have an agenda, and they ask a question you do not want to answer, then say "I do not have the expertise in that area" or try to move the conversation in another direction.

Rachael: I have a problem with impulse control sometimes. I did a photo shoot recently and I gave the finger just for fun and luckily the reporter was my friend and took did not publish that picture.

Audience Comment: Some bloggers do not want to do live interviews. They want to questions emailed to them and sometimes post questions on their blog.

Rachael - Emailing with someone is different then speaking with someone. If you ask a reporter to only deal with you over email, you are limiting the conversation. One blogger put the email sent to them by a reporter on their blog which ruined the story.

Cynthia: I think email interviews are bad for everyone.

Audience member: I did an IM interview, because a reporter asked me to. I asked him to quote me because some of the prior stories I provided information for, I was not quoted for.This reporter has this problem and has done that before.

I have had TV segments that I had to take 45 seconds out just before it went off the air. It sometimes had nothing to do with you.

Audience comment: This reporter has this problem and has done that before.

Audience comment: I am friendly to my sources but I am not their friend. They may get open on the phone with me when I am writing a story, and felt uncomfortable and mad when the story came out.

Cynthia: Reporters need to make the call when their interviewee brings their wall down.

Rachael: Sometimes it is not fun being un-biased.

Audience member: Sometimes when I answer the reporter questions and mention my husband, the reporter starts gearing the interview around my husband. How do you bring them back?

Rachael: You can say, he is in law but I don't want to speak more about him.

Cynthia: Or, I have 2 minutes left so please ask me any further questions. When you are on TV, pretend you are talking to the person interviewing you - that one person. Do not talk to the camera. Don't sound like you memorized the conversation, but it is good to prepare your thoughts.

Rachael: Ask yourself questions in your head to prepare.

Audience Question: What do you do when someone comes up and shoves a microphone in your face and ask an unrelated question.

Cynthia: If they are ambushing you, say "I don't have anything to say about that". Take a minute, think and find some neutral thing to say. Even in a live interview, if you don't have anything to say take a minute.

Audience member: I agree email interviews are not good. A good idea is to provide reporters with different sources.

Audience member: What do you think about social media press releases instead of traditional press releases? For example, a release that has delicious links.

Cynthia: If you give them a good head start to a story, then the release is a great resource for information.

Audience member: As a consumer more then a blogger wanting to promote myself, if you see on TV interviewer and interviewee that both have an agenda - I feel "why don't they talk about what I want to know".

Cynthia:The ratings come from the yelling and screaming. People that disagree have more sparks flying and are more interesting to watch.  A good idea is stop watching shows that have an agenda that you do not agree with. Even send some emails to you friends asking them not to watch the show.

QUESTION 3: What if you are misquoted?

Audience member: I was misquoted on the front page of a major newspaper. The reporter asked if I  take free stuff on my blog. I said I don't want my product to become a product review blog. He misquoted me and said I was innodated with free stuff (like I was a product whore). They also published a portion of an email.

Cynthia: Write a letter to an editor or write the reporter's boss if you are misquoted.

Audience member: Is the press release dead?

Cynthia: When I worked in PR, the press release never stopped so it was hard to keep up with them. It is better to address the press release to a specific person. You can put the press release in an email (not an attachment) so they can read it on their PDA's.

I feel badly about the blogger interviews I have seen where people got ambushed. If you are going on TV, you need to be ready and it is not that hard. You need to know exactly what you are going to say, and if they push you to talk about something else you can skid around it to another subject you DO want to talk about. You can turn interviews closer to what you are about.

Racheal: Life perspective, it may hurt but do not have a heart attack about misquotes.

Cynthia: If they lift material from you book and don't mention you, then that is unfair.


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