How to not be Dick Morris

If you haven’t seen the news by now, Dick Morris’s recent Newsmax interview was interrupted by a man wearing only boxer shorts and an undershirt. It’s clear the man didn’t know Dick was doing a live interview at the time, and neither party acknowledged the surprise appearance when it happened.

So, how do you avoid the same fate? Here are a couple tips to ensure something like this never happens to you. These tips may seem basic, but they can save you from going viral for the wrong reasons.

#1 — Let everyone in your house know you’re recording.
Clearly communicating when and where in the house your live interview will be happening is paramount. You should ask everyone who will be in the house while you’re recording to remain quiet and still until you let them know it’s all clear. This means no vacuuming, house repairs, or talking on the phone.

#2 — Plug into your Wi-Fi.
You should also request that everyone not use the Wi-Fi until the interview is finished so that you have a strong signal. BUT, to ensure the best connection and no tech interruptions, a great option is to plug into your Wi-Fi. You can even purchase a 100-foot ethernet cable and attach it to your computer wherever you go live.

New Year, New Studio

Happy New Year! 2024 is the perfect time to finally set up that home studio you’ve had on your to-do list. To help you do so, here are the top three equipment recommendations we regularly send to clients. This small investment makes a big difference to how you look and sound.

#1 — Lights
Make sure you order two. Place both behind your computer screen — one on the right and one on the left — to illuminate your face.

#2 — Microphone (and Microphone Adapters)
We recommend this microphone. But depending on whether you have a Mac or PC, you’ll need an adapter for each. You can find the Mac adapter here, and you can find the PC adapter here.

#3 — IFB
This is the IFB you’ll want to purchase. You don’t technically need an IFB, but a producer will often ask you to wear headphones. We’ve found that an IFB provides better assurance as Airpods can lose power in the middle of an interview.

Dress for the Job You Have

Given the recent news about a relaxed dress code for Senators on the Senate floor, we at DMG thought it might be helpful to offer a counterpoint — why dressing for success matters.

#1 — It helps YOU, by boosting your confidence.

You can’t help but feel good about yourself and your abilities when you choose to wear nice clothes that fit you well. Whether speaking in front of an audience or in front of a camera, feeling confident in what you’re wearing produces better results. When you feel capable and confident, you succeed.

#2 — It helps your AUDIENCE, by building respect. 

People judge you instantly. It’s human nature, and we can’t help it. We can call it superficial, but when someone appears to put effort into their daily activities (including how they present themselves in certain situations), there is a level of respect they earn from those around them.

We’re not anti-casual clothes. With a full-time WFH staff, we value our hoodies too. Our advice is to keep things casual when appropriate but dress for success in a professional setting to build your confidence and earn respect.

“No comment.”

There are very few times when we recommend you respond to a reporter’s question with “no comment.” But it’s especially poor form when you’re the President of the United States and your citizens are experiencing a total loss of life and livelihood.

Instead of “no comment,” here are a few compassionate ways to respond to a tragedy without getting ahead of the story:  

#1 — Demonstrate empathy. When people are suffering, it’s important to show that you care. If you’re a person of faith who wants to pray for the injured or those who have lost loved ones, offer your prayers. If you’re not a person of faith, you can always say you’re “heartbroken over the news and tragic loss of life.” Whatever your background is, the key is to demonstrate empathy in an authentic way.

#2 — Timing matters. Every tragedy is different, but choosing the right time to talk about solutions and how you’ll work to prevent it from happening again is important. If it’s a natural disaster and there is an ongoing recovery effort, make it clear that you will discuss future preventative measures once everyone who needs help has been helped. In other situations—like 9/11—it’s necessary to communicate that those responsible will be held accountable immediately.

#3 — Show up. The best way to show you care is by showing up. For President Biden, that means traveling to Hawaii to meet with state and local officials as well as the residents who lost loved ones, their homes, and/or their livelihoods. Showing you care always trumps saying you care.

Should I start with a joke?

When we help clients prepare for a big speech, we often get asked whether it’s a good idea to start with a joke. The client wants to capture the audience’s attention, maybe put himself/herself at ease, appear likable from the start, etc. But we often encourage clients to let go of the joke. From our experience, it’s not the best way to start a speech.

Instead, here’s how we recommend you tee up your remarks:

#1 — You do want to capture the audience’s attention from the start.
Talk about them before you talk about you. You can create common ground by sharing a recent story, data point, quote, or viral tweet. If you can start your speech with something the audience cares about and knows about, they will actively listen to you for a longer period of time.

#2 — But be careful that you don’t share a moment that is *too* personal.
Last week, Congresswoman Nancy Mace demonstrated what not to do when she tried to talk about her sex life in the introduction to her prayer breakfast remarks. Be appropriate and avoid sharing too much information. Also, if you’re going to share a story, make sure it’s a real story that happened to you. The audience will be able to tell if you’re making it up and/or trying to apply someone else’s story to your life.

***We don’t always say “no” to jokes. Jokes can work under certain circumstances. If you start with a joke but fail to deliver the punchline, you risk losing the audience before you start your speech. For a joke to work, two important things have to be true: 1) that you are funny and 2) that the joke you’re going to tell is funny. If you’re set on telling a joke, make sure you run it by your own personal focus group first to make sure it lands.

How to Not Be Like Kamala

The motto “Keep It Simple, Stupid” is helpful to remember as you’re asked to break down complex issues to a broad audience. But as Vice President Kamala Harris frequently reminds us, you can be too simple and compromise your message. Or worse, insult your audience.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s how DMG recommends you prepare for your big moment — speech, spontaneous Q+A session, TV hit — without compromising your message or losing the audience:

#1 — Prepare in advance.
No one is a natural behind the mic. It’s true that some people are better at it than others, but those who make it seem “easy” have prepared in advance. You’ll notice that the VP makes her biggest mistakes when she’s speaking off-the-cuff. Knowing what you want to say and having a fallback phrase or talking point to come back to if you start to lose your train of thought can prevent a situation like the VP’s viral “passage of time” clip.

#2 — Practice out loud.
Once you’ve finalized your speech or talking points, practice saying the words out loud and without notes. If the final version of what you plan to say doesn’t allow you to use notes, then you have to practice without notes. You’ll find that when you practice out loud, you’re better able to internalize the content which results in a smoother delivery.

#3 — Hire DMG!
We help prepare people all the time for keynote speeches, townhalls, TV hits, panel discussions, etc. Each format has different rules and requires different speaking skills, and so we work to prepare our clients as best as possible by talking through all of the verbal, vocal, and visual considerations. Yes, there are tips and tricks to delivering a good message and then staying on message when you’re asked questions you didn’t anticipate, but what it ultimately comes down to is preparation and practice.

Top 3 Tips for Placing Op-Eds

Given the chaotic news cycle, placing an effective op-ed is more challenging than ever. DMG has three quick tips to improve the chances of getting your work published at your desired outlet.

#1 — Before putting pen to paper, ask yourself: Is my voice credible on the topic?
If you’re reading this newsletter, chances are you’ve felt that passionate urge to voice your opinion about a news story. The first thing an opinion editor asks when they review a submission is whether the source is credible. Even if you’ve written a beautiful op-ed, you likely won’t get published if you don’t have any professional expertise or credibility on the topic. For example, if you’re authoring an op-ed on a controversial SCOTUS case, your background should be related to the subject of the case in some way — as either an attorney or an activist. The closer you are to the issue you’re writing about, the better the chances are that your work will be published.

#2 — Select an outlet to pitch and know your audience.
If your dream is to be published in the Wall Street Journal, then you should be studying the contents of the WSJ opinion page daily. You need to be familiar with the topics the WSJ covers — and in order to be familiar with those topics, you should be familiar with their audience as well.

#3 — Count your words.
Unless it’s a long-form magazine, most online news sites don’t publish op-eds that exceed 850 words. DMG usually suggests op-ed word counts land somewhere between 750-800 words. Oftentimes opinion editors won’t even consider running a piece if it’s too long.

How to Get on TV

#1 — Know Your Goal

Whether your goal is to sell a product or become a talking head on cable news, you need to clearly identify what it is and have a plan to achieve it. Your goal needs to become your TV identity.

#2 — Biography + Headshots

Every professional should have a polished 200–300-word biography. This biography should include everything from your current position, major career accomplishments, educational background, and any other details that help push your TV goals forward. For example, if you’re currently a professor at a local college but your TV goal is to discuss political news of the day, you need to include as much of your political experience in your bio as possible. Whether you’ve been a political appointee, run for office, or worked on a major campaign, those positions are key to creating your TV identity.

Every professional also needs a presentable headshot. One or two high-resolution photos of your face and upper body in work attire are crucial to landing a TV interview — especially if you don’t have any previous TV clips.

#3 — Take It to the Internet

Social media and the Internet are amazing ways to showcase your TV identity. If your goal is to be on TV, you should be using social media as a branding tool. TV bookers can easily pull up your Twitter page to see what your thoughts are on trending news stories.

While social media accounts can be somewhat limiting, DMG always recommends that you create a professional website for yourself. Using a simple template through WordPress or Squarespace, you can create a landing page for your TV identity — which should include your biography, headshots, social media accounts, and links to any writing you’ve done. When bookers Google your name, it’s super helpful for them to see your TV identity neatly laid out in one place.

#4 — Hire DMG!

When you have these three marks in place, it’s time to hire DMG! Our account executives are well-connected to some of the best TV bookers in the biz! DMG secures coverage for clients on some of the most influential cable news shows out there — and we work with you throughout the whole process — including personal branding, messaging strategy, and even media training — everything to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward and accomplishing your goals on TV.

How to Appear Confident

The passing of the torch from the outgoing White House press secretary to the incoming White House press secretary is a monumental thing. Though it’s an honor to hold the job title for any amount of time, it’s also a very tough job as the world watches and waits for and grades your performance.

This week, we watched as Karine Jean-Pierre replaced Jen Psaki. And while there was a lot to critique in her answers to tough questions, her body language also deserves a conversation. Karine Jean-Pierre will likely improve as time goes on—the first week is usually the toughest—but there are lessons to learn in how she handled herself behind the podium. We all knew she was nervous (who wouldn’t be?!) because she looked nervous. But even if you are, there are ways to hide it and project confidence instead.

#1 — Don’t shift weight.

In this clip, you can see how the new press secretary shifts her weight from leg to leg. Doing so causes her to move around in the frame, which is distracting. Occasionally shifting weight is fine as you don’t want to lock your knees, but you want to stay centered behind the podium the majority of the time. Standing planted helps you look like you’re in control.

#2 — Maintain eye contact.

Referencing your notes to answer tough questions is wise. Reading straight from your notes without making eye contact with your audience makes it appear as if you don’t know the content. It’s better to alternate between referencing your notes and looking at the audience—spending more time looking at the audience. Of course, it’s best to have had enough practice to be able to speak without relying on notes. But if you’re not at that point, don’t let your fallback be to read your notes verbatim. Again, maintaining as much eye contact with the audience helps you look like you’re in control.

Words Matter

The topic of abortion has dominated the airwaves since the release of the alleged majority draft opinion was published by Politico one week ago. We’ve heard plenty of arguments both for and against a sensitive issue that requires those who identify as pro-life to talk about it with care.

In the 50 years since Roe, we’ve learned that word choice matters because it reveals how you feel about abortion. For example, you can tell which side of the debate you’re on by which of the following words you use or don’t use: “baby” vs. “fetus” “pro-choice” vs. “pro-life” “right to life” vs. “women’s rights.” Confuse your words and you betray your message, just like President Biden did last week when he said, “abort a child.”

In addition to the words you use, it also matters HOW you talk about abortion and the examples you cite. Polling shows that a slim majority of Americans agree with the right to an abortion. But when asked to specify how far into the pregnancy an abortion should be permissible, that same majority of Americans overwhelmingly think there should be limits.

This change in perspective is largely due to the technology that reveals how a baby develops in the womb, which means those on the pro-life side of the issue should lean on these developments to ground their case.

Here’s what we now know about a baby’s development in the womb:

  • You can hear a baby’s heartbeat as early as three to four weeks.
  • A baby responds to touch at eight weeks.
  • A baby feels pain by 20 weeks or earlier.

Words matter, but so do the examples you use. When discussing the life of an unborn child, focus on their development in the womb. Doing so will give great weight to your talking points in the pro-choice/pro-life debate as these facts and figures continue to change hearts and minds.