For the best PR in any media, be poised, to the point and pay it forward
By Drew Gerber
There’s nothing quite like the exposure you get appearing before the 44 million viewers who tune into Oprah each week.
The “Oprah Effect” is famous for its ability to boost national sales, making millionaires out of some and saving others from bankruptcy. Getting your book or product reviewed on Oprah is considered the Holy Grail of PR accomplishments.
Susan Harrow, who recently appeared on the CNBC documentary, The Oprah Effect, studied “The Oprah Winfrey Show” over 15 years and interviewed prestigious publicists and guests about the strategies they used to get on the show for her recently updated book The Ultimate Guide to Getting Booked on Oprah.
Whether or not you aim for that pinnacle, you can use the same good publicity principles to get the best results in other media venues in your own backyard and nationally.
For instance, you best promote yourself and your book, product or cause when you give people valuable advice and resources for free. You don’t ever want to sound like a commercial. Your job is to give great information that no one else can give. Harrow says it’s also important to monetize your brand and attract the right clients, customers, partnerships, connections and experiences to you. “Sound bites are the missing link to securing actual results from publicity appearances that both new and established businesses often ignore.” she says
Harrow also advises her clients seeking to get on Oprah to do their homework. That means studying the show, practicing what to say and choosing anecdotes and one-liners to make their stories compelling.
The same advice holds true for anyone preparing for any media appearance. Know your hosts, familiarize yourself with their style and content needs, keep your answers short, snappy and to the point and remember to tell compelling stories that have relevance to your audience.
Most people without extensive media training are not accustomed to speaking in sound bites. On Oprah, segments typically run four to eight minutes so you have to make your points succinctly.
When you are talking to your local TV news team or morning host, you often get seconds rather than minutes to make your point. Harrow recommends condensing your message to a 10- or 20-second sound bite and delivering it in a relaxed and conversational manner – which takes practice.
“97 percent of what people perceive about you is nonverbal, so your presence on camera is essential for instilling trust, respect and credibility. “I have clients practice all of their mistakes in front of me, not an audience of millions,” says Harrow. “Consistent sound bite practice is the fastest way to grow your business.”
So how do you go about attracting the media’s attention? One of the fastest ways to be perceived as an expert is to sign up on free media query services, such as www.PitchRate.com, that connect journalists with expert sources. Since it was launched earlier this year, PitchRate has grown to include about 15,000 sources. Journalists sign up for free and send out queries on the stories they are covering.
Liza Shaw, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Hickory, NC, has used PitchRate to find experts to interview on her own Web radio program, as well as to seek out publicity opportunities for herself and her business, www.powertothrive.com. Soon after signing up, she was invited to speak on another radio program on the topic of forgiveness.
Liza’s story gets back to one of the first and most important points Harrow tells her clients aiming for national media exposure: Focus on how you can serve rather than what you can get. It’s like the counter-intuitive saying “Go slow to go fast”: starting in your own backyard can be the fastest route to Oprah there is.