How to win the mental game

Nailing a media interview is equal parts technique and mental game, but more attention is often paid to the importance of mastering what you say and how you say it rather than your mindset before and during the interview.

We’re here to say that your mindset matters and will absolutely determine an interview’s success. So, before you put all your effort into mastering talking points, body language, and facial expressions, it’s worth your time to develop the right mindset.

Here are three ways to do so:

#1 — Realize perfection is a process
Your first few interviews probably won’t be great, and that’s ok. There is a learning curve everyone has to face, but the one obstacle that will keep you from making progress is fear. You have to allow yourself to be human, make mistakes, and learn. A good perspective to keep: if you’re speaking about an issue you believe in, the worst that can happen is you’ll think about how you *could’ve* made the point better, but you won’t ever regret making the point.

#2 — Don’t be afraid of the media
A media interview IS NOT a battle of wits between you and the reporter. It’s your job to acknowledge the question asked and then immediately pivot to your talking point. If helpful, think of the reporter as a facilitator. They are there to fill air time and ask questions. It’s up to you whether the discussion is meaningful.

#3 — Always speak to the audience
Consider who you’re speaking to and what you want them to know regardless of the question asked. People are tuning in to hear from you and get your perspective on an issue, so give them your perspective.

The key to your audience’s heart

Humor goes a long way to make someone like you, and we think there’s no better approach than self-deprecation. If used appropriately, self-deprecating humor has the power to instantly unite speaker and audience for the simple reason that it’s hard to dislike someone who’s just made fun of himself.

Here’s our best advice for how to be self-deprecating:

#1 — State the obvious

Does the audience know something unflattering about you? Has the media latched onto a past mistake you wish to not be identified with anymore? Then use this opportunity to make a joke about it. (The keyword here is “obvious,” so the joke only works if everyone knows what you’re talking about.)

For example… “[George W. Bush often] beat comedians to the punch by telling many jokes at his own expense. He opened the 2005 Correspondents’ Dinner, for example, by saying, ‘I look forward to these dinners where I’m supposed to be funny . . . intentionally.’”

#2 — Play off the unexpected

If something happens during your presentation that is unexpected – mic fades, lights blink, you trip on stage – laugh about it. If you ignore the mishap, the audience will continue to think about the awkward moment you didn’t acknowledge instead of what you’re saying.

For example… “How refreshing, then, was Romney’s quip upon taking the stage with glitter in his hair, thanks to an ambush from a gay activist: ‘That’s not all that’s in my hair, I’ll tell you that…I glue it on every morning, whether I need to or not.’”

#3 — Don’t apologize

The last thing an audience wants to hear as they settle in for your presentation is a disclaimer. Do not apologize for being tired, having less star power than the previous speaker, etc. Instead, make fun of yourself.

For example… If you’re the last speaker of the day, joke about how you have the power to hold the audience hostage, delaying happy hour well past the time that anyone can be considered happy anymore. Insert a line about “with great power, comes great responsibility.”

FINAL NOTE. Be self-deprecating, but not too much. There’s a fine line between ingratiating yourself and making the audience feel bad for you. One joke at your expense is enough.

How to Sit in the Hot Seat

For the past few weeks, we’ve provided you with a series of tips to demystify the TV interview process. You’ve learned how to communicate with the producer and book a TV hit as well as navigate the green room, which means it’s now time to talk about the hot seat. Here’s what you can expect:

#1 — Mics and IFBs

Someone will mic you up and place an IFB in your ear. This audio device allows you to hear the host as well as the producer, so they can announce when you’re about to go live and then give you the “all clear” once the interview ends.

You’ll notice a knob on the box clipped to the back of your chair for IFB volume control – don’t hesitate to use it.

#2 — Live Feed Monitor

There will be a monitor near the camera that displays a live feed. Some people like to see themselves, so they can fix any stray hairs and adjust their tie, but others find it distracting. If you find it distracting, feel free to ask the person staffing you to turn it off.

#3 — Always Be Ready

Until the producer gives you the “all clear,” assume you’re live. This applies to commercial breaks and well after the host says “thank you” to end the segment. Just keep smiling or maintain a pleasant resting face.

Green Room Etiquette

Last week, we talked about how to prepare for your interview and what to expect from the producer. This week, we’ll address the next step in the process – green room etiquette.

Help us help you be a low maintenance guest by following these three simple rules:

#1 – Check in with the makeup artists.

Even though the makeup artists have a rundown of the guests and corresponding hit time, it’s best to let them know when you’ve arrived. You’ll likely walk by the makeup room on your way to the green room, so just take a minute to check in with them first.

A note about makeup artists: they want you to be happy with your hair and makeup, so don’t hesitate to speak up and let them know what you prefer. We’re not suggesting you dictate the exact cheek color, but you can request a bold lip, smoky eye, overall understated look, etc.

#2 – Don’t take selfies. 

Maybe this goes without saying, but here we are saying it – don’t take selfies with the other guests in the green room. Most people use that time to refine their talking points and prepare for their hit, and you will too.

#3 – Hydrate.

Always grab a water and take it with you to the studio to prevent a sudden case of dry mouth. There’s nothing worse than anticipating a live hit with a dry mouth and no way to remedy the situation.

Working with Producers

TV hits are weird and wonderful, but a little scary if you’ve never done one. Over the next several weeks, we want to demystify the process by outlining every step. Let’s start at the beginning with how you can prepare for the interview and what to expect from the producer.

Here are the top 5 things to know:

#1 – The producer will reach out to you a couple hours before your hit via email– they will include the topic, but not the questions.

#2 – Once you know the topic, it’s likely the producer will expect you to respond with your point of view. We suggest you not offer too many details– no need to write out your talking points verbatim and hit “send.” Please know that if you include a clever phrase or two, the host may use it in their intro to your segment. If you’d like to use that clever phrase on air, refrain from including it in your email.

#3 – The topic is subject to change, so be flexible.

#4 – If the producer offers car service, accept. This way you don’t have to worry about parking your car or navigating public transportation.

#5 – Thank you notes are not just appropriate for good hospitality and job interviews, they can also get you invited back for future TV hits.

Let’s talk about our rights

In honor of America’s 242nd birthday tomorrow, we’d like to give the gift that keeps on giving – a lesson in how to talk about our rights so we persuade rather than polarize.

For us political nerds who live in D.C. and work with the federal government, or those who live in real America and work with state and local governments, it brings us great joy to name drop “Amendments,” the “Constitution,” and various bill numbers coming up for a vote.

But if you want people to understand the argument and join your cause, you have to appeal to that basic human instinct in all of us – protecting our rights.

Here are a few suggestions about how to name drop “rights” into every conversation and maintain common ground.

#1 – Amendments

Play it safe and define the amendments to include talk of rights. For example, instead of “First Amendment” or “Second Amendment,” say “the right to free speech” or “the right to protect myself.”

Doing so equalizes the playing field for those who can’t name the amendments and saves you the time and effort to explain.

#2 – Constitution

Sure, it’s a founding document and critical to the endurance of this great nation (nbd), but some think the Constitution is outdated and does not apply. Choose the path of least resistance (and greatest persuasion) by talking about “rights” instead of the “Constitution.”

#3 – Economic Freedom

Most people probably agree that economic freedom is a good thing. But in the interest of not wasting time to define a wonky term or two, bring it back to rights. Instead of “economic freedom,” say “we all have the right to do business with whom we choose.”

There’s a time and place to name drop and defend “Amendments,” the “Constitution,” and wonky terms like “Economic Freedom.” But if you need to reach a broad audience, talk in terms people understand for a cause they believe in – protecting our rights.

When to go public with your faith

In the past couple weeks, we’ve watched two men from two different Hollywoods talk about their faith. One received a lot of applause and praise hand emojis; the other was relentlessly mocked.

So, why the discrepancy? Because Chris Pratt considered his audience and provided context, and Jeff Sessions didn’t. Let us explain.

#1 — Know Your Audience

While most people believe in a higher power, not everyone subscribes to the Bible. To guarantee your message reaches as many people as possible, remain inclusive by using generalizations that most people agree with regardless of their faith – i.e. God loves you.

#2 — Context Matters

It rarely works to apply one Bible verse to a complex issue, so we recommend you don’t. But if you find yourself speaking to an audience that wants (and is prepared) to hear scripture cited or read, you have to give context.

Jeff Sessions may have been able to escape the mockery if he had first provided context for the Romans 13 reference, or he may have realized in the process of providing context that his reference didn’t apply to the larger policy issue.

If you’re unsure whether to talk about your faith in public, first consider the audience:

  • Sometimes it’s best to stick with a general truth that applies to many faiths.
  • Sometimes it’s best to use examples to prove your point — remember, Jesus often spoke in parables.
  • Sometimes it’s helpful to state your case, but not tie your perspective to faith.

Whatever you do, choose wisely. And if you cite a document of faith — Bible, Torah, Koran, etc. — always provide context.

David Hogg, author

David Hogg has been in the news since that fateful day in February when 14 students and 3 staff members were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

In the aftermath, he and his classmates have made a name for themselves by championing gun control. You’ve seen them in interviews on major news networks and as headliners at the March for Our Lives.

Today marks another activist milestone – David and his sister have written and released a book to serve as “a guide to the #NeverAgain movement.”

This means the media will turn their attention back to the Parkland shooting and the issue of gun control, and you should prepare to answer questions about it.

Here’s what not to do:

  • Don’t attack the kids. Doing so hijacks the conversation and turns attention away from the issue we should be debating.

Here’s what to do:

  • Start by acknowledging how great it is for young people to be exercising their free speech rights, and then pivot to solutions.

It’s a simple equation, but it works. Acknowledge the kids’ involvement as a good thing before you talk facts and figures. Otherwise, you make news by attacking victims of a school shooting, and that’s never a good look on anyone. Just because we can’t imagine the horror and tragic aftermath doesn’t mean we should skip over the emotion and their efforts to deal.

NoKo: How NOT to do a photo op

All eyes are on the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un as they decide North Korea’s nuclear future. Every step they take and move they make will be analyzed, and the opportunity for Kim Jong-un to use this meeting and its optics as propaganda is very real.

Though most of us won’t ever have to worry about appearing too friendly in a photo op, President Trump and members of his Administration should.

Kim Jong-un is the worst human rights violator of our time. He has killed members of his own family, he tortured and killed American Otto Warmbier, and there are estimates of up to 120,000 political prisoners in North Korea today.

Because we don’t want to legitimize the brutality of Kim Jong-un’s regime, it’s imperative that every photo op between him and Trump signal diplomacy, not friendship.

Here’s a study in what to do/what not to do from Secretary Pompeo’s first meeting with Kim Jong-un:

#1 — Keep your happiness in check

Yes, we want North Korea to be a better actor on the world stage, but it’s never a good look to laugh with a murderer. Maintain your composure and accept the gravity of the situation.

#2 — Remain cool

This photo is much better, but Pompeo’s hand on Kim Jong-un’s back seems a little too familiar. They aren’t friends. They will never be friends. So, there’s no need to act otherwise. The only acceptable contact is a hand shake to demonstrate business has been done.

#3 — Repeat after me

This photo is a perfect demonstration of how to pose with the worst human rights violator of our time. No smile means all business, and the only contact is a handshake which signals diplomacy not friendship.

This meeting will be a true test in discipline for President Trump as he loves a camera and a microphone. Fingers crossed the gravity of the situation will outweigh his desire to say cheese (or start another international bromance).

Religious Liberty, Presidential Pardons, and #MeToo

So much has happened, and it’s only Tuesday. Given the busy, busy news cycle, we thought we’d highlight the teachable moments from yesterday’s top stories:

#1 — U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop

This story has been making headlines for a while, so Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop are now household names. Which is the point. You want to fight for someone rather than against someone, and the only way you’re able to do so is by connecting a face to an issue. The importance of this case for religious liberty doesn’t change, but you’ll win more hearts and minds any time you can talk about a person instead of a wonky policy or legal case.

#2 — Trump threatens to pardon himself

In a bright and early Monday morning tweet, President Trump reminded the Twitterverse that he has the power to pardon himself:

In case you’re asked to respond, here’s a block and bridge:

Q: President Trump claimed he has the power to pardon himself – do you support his claim?

A: “The Constitution does allow for a President to pardon himself, but my hope is that the result of this investigation will be clear and swift and not warrant any threat of a presidential pardon.” Then immediately transition to your talking point as we assume you don’t intend to address presidential pardons in your interview.

#3 — Bill Clinton makes an impeachment claim

Bill Clinton is back in the spotlight to promote a book he coauthored with James Patterson, which you may not have realized because the sound bites from his latest interview cover every topic BUT the book. This is a PR nightmare made worse by Clinton’s hypocritical attempts to label “bad behavior” in others. To avoid a similar fate for you or your boss, remember that it’s not a good move to call out someone else’s indiscretions when you haven’t apologized for your own. It’s best to start with “I’m sorry.”