10 Tips for Mastering Your Television Skype Interview

(Editor’s note:  Cam is one of The Hodges Partnership’s media relations superstars. Much of his recent work has been focused on international media for clients like ChildFund International.  This post is a result of his recent success.) -JN

by Cameron McPherson

One of the neatest things about technology advances is how it lets news organizations connect with sources and experts more quickly. With Skype, Google+ and other video calling tools, news networks like CNN and MSNBC can get an expert on the air in a matter of minutes.

ChildFund’s Mark Dasco does a Skype interview with CNN International after last year’s tsunami in The Philippines.

ChildFund’s Mark Dasco does a Skype interview with CNN International after last year’s tsunami in The Philippines.

A video interview via Skype or Google+ is much like a traditional studio interview. There are some extra things to keep in mind though. When we’re coordinating Skype interviews for clients, here are some of the tips we share:

Do not look at your screen: You will look weird. Instead, look at your computer’s camera, so it appears to viewers that you are looking at them. Put a bright sticker or another marker to draw your eyes to the camera.

Know your talking points: Just because you’re behind a computer and not in the studio, does not mean you can cheat by including notes on your monitor. This is broadcast television – the big leagues! If your eyes are reading from the screen, it will look awkward to viewers.

Turn off notifications: Remember how I told you to look at the camera? Turn off email and other desktop notifications that may pop up and distract you during your interview. Also, silence cell phones to avoid unwanted background noise.

Create a backdrop: This sounds like common sense, but if you’re doing an interview from your office, be sure to clean up. It’s also an opportunity to include organization signage in the background. If you have a poster or sign with the organization’s logo, put it behind you.

Practice: Don’t wait until you’re live on CNN to see how you look on the video feed. Practice with a friend or coworker to make sure you and your surroundings look top notch. Test lighting to make sure it’s not too dark or bright. It’s also a chance to practice looking at the camera, something that may not feel “natural.”

Wardrobe: The safest color to wear for television interviews is blue. In general, do not wear white, black, red or patterns, and avoid colors that blend into the background.

Headphones: Ideally, you’ll be able to hear the anchor without the use of headphones, but have them around just in case. Use a pair of discreet, white or black headphones, if needed.

Reduce background noise: Turn the television off. Not only will it create background noise, but the short delay can distract interviewees. Additionally, be aware of other outside sounds that could interfere. Closing your office door is always a good idea.

A Professional Skype username: While it’s unlikely your username will be displayed on the screen, the producer will need to connect with you beforehand. Nothing takes away from an expert’s credibility like “BarbieGirl99.” I suggest a username with your full name and organization.

Keep IT on standby: This is technology you’re dealing with – it will break when you need it most! Make sure you have someone around who can fix any issues that pop up.

Producers will often call and do a sound check before broadcast to make sure the connection is solid. Feel free to ask any questions or concerns you may have at this time. But, remember: you’re an expert and you’re going to do great!

Do you have any tips for the perfect Skype interview? Please share in the comments below.

No, not another “five brand lessons you learn from Springsteen” post

by Jon Newman

This is a big week for me.  In the next week or so I’m going to see Bruce Springsteen live.  Twice.

In the past I might have fallen victim to the same “crutch” that other blogger sometimes depend on.  I’ll admit to it, I’ve also done it in the past.  That’s taking something you are doing or are passionate about and stretching that into a blog post about three or five or seven lessons you can learn from that person or thing.

At first it was cute, then it grew a little tiresome and then it became the thing that everyone did.

I’m stopping now.

In this social world I’m finding it harder and harder to separate the personal from the professional.  More times than not lately I’ve been chided by some who have grown tired about my Facebook posting or tweeting about Springsteen, or Rutgers, or the Mets, or my other passions.  By not connecting my passions directly to a blog post I hope I’m giving them one less thing to chide me about.

If I sound a little bitter, well maybe I am.  If social sharing is not created to share things that you are truly passionate about then what is it there for?  Please tell me it’s not just about sharing your latest views about marketing, PR or advertising because if it is the world would then be a truly boring place.

Maybe I/we are somewhat to blame for that.  Maybe we get so caught up on the use of social media, we forget what it is there for, for people to just share.

If you don’t like what I’m sharing then feel free to unfollow, unfan, unlink, unpin and unconnect with me.  I’m not forcing you to do any of that, it is your choice.

As Springsteen says in “The Ties That Bind,”

It’s a long dark highway and a thin white line Connecting baby, your heart to mine.

Maybe we should look at social media as that highway and its thin white line.  You can ride it with me, or get off at the next exit.  You can choose and should choose the Ties That Bind.

Shit, there I go using Springsteen to teach a lesson in a blog post.  Damn.

Chick-fil-A’s Turf Toe

by Tony Scida

Recently a Chick-fil-A executive made a statement that caused a bit of a stir in the media and, especially, online. Yesterday, Gizmodo reported that Chick-fil-A (or someone representing them) created fake Facebook accounts (complete with stock photo profile photos) just to defend the company online.

Chick-fil-A denies this charge, but it brings up a very important piece of advice for companies trying to navigate the digital landscape: Do not make fake accounts.

It’s awfully tempting for companies that see criticism online to want to jump in there and post in their own defense. And since an official response may not be taken at its word, some companies engage in what’s known as astroturfing (I’m sure much to the chagrin of the presumably fine people who make imitation grass sporting surfaces), which is meant to look like grassroots support, but falls short on closer examination.

What makes astroturfing even worse is that it’s often not even necessary. If CFA did indeed create these accounts, they’ve just made themselves worse. Their fans had already come to their defense, with Fox News correspondent (and former presidential candidate) Mike Huckabee already calling for a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.

In the best case, astroturfing just costs a lot of money and fools no-one. In the worst case, your brand could be tarnished long-term (but you won’t be around to see it, because you’ll be fired).

#PRSARVA and social media, now what?

It could have been the “level” of the people in the room since it was billed as a professional development session.

It could have been the amount of attention, time and effort people are spending on social media these days.

It could have been a lot of factors coming together at once.

But I came away extremely impressed with the group at spoke to and with at PRSARVA’s professional development event last Friday.

Here are the presentation slides for all who want to take a look…

Click here to view presentation

If social media is a ladder and each step up is another level of education and commitment then I think Richmond’s PR and marketing community has climbed another rung or two over the last six-to-twelve months.

Outstanding crowd at PRSA session last week.

In the past, my hope as a speaker was to get everyone to the same level of understanding with a great deal of teaching going on in similar hour-long sessions.  Last Friday, it was clear that everyone in the room was on the same page and my role was more of a validator than teacher.  My hope is that each person came away with one little nugget as opposed to many bars of gold.

Needless to say I was impressed.

So where (as a community) do we go from here?   I think while we continue to educate ourselves about the new platforms, etc. that seem to pop up daily, it’s time to focus more on getting better on the core work.  Some of the themes of the presentation (storytelling, using images, understanding mobile and its opportunities) will hopefully help you focus.

Thanks again for the opportunity to present.  I really learned a lot.

#PRSARVA, what do you want to hear?

It wasn’t an easy call to make, especially at 6 in the morning.

I had to call Jennifer Pounders and tell her “you know that PRSARVA professional development session that I’m supposed to be leading in a hour?  Well, THAT’s not going to happen…”  She handled the curve ball with her usual grace and proceeded to call all the folks who had registered.  Thanks, Jen.

Long story short, I found out after a doctors visit that I had walking pneumonia and it was probably a good thing that I passed on speaking as I would have infected about 70 of Richmond’s stellar PR and marketing community.

So what do you want to hear???

So the session has been rescheduled for May 18 (two weeks of antibiotics later and I’m as good as new) and from what I understand the number of attendees has now risen.  There are a few slots left and you can register here.

I’m still planning to cover Facebook Timeline for Brands, the growing social media platform Pinterest, and touch on mobile.

But the main reason for this post is to solicit any other ideas or things that you’d like to hear about or want be to cover.

So please take a minute if you’re planning to attend ( and even if you aren’t) and comment below to help me add a topic or two to the session.

Thanks so much.

PR pros should “dance with the one that brung you”

by Jon Newman

OK, here we go.  Time for your daily dose of blasphemy on this Thursday.   Hold on to your hats but this is something that’s been bothering me for a while especially as a personally stand one foot in each bucket.

Are we spending too much time focusing on social media when good old-fashioned public and media relations still works just fine?

Before you say Jon, we can and should do both, I will quickly agree with you but add that maybe we should prioritize the time spent on both so we meet all of our clients goals.

Is it summed up with a question I recently asked my PR/social media class at VCU as they were wrapping up their semester-long social media projects.  “Given the choice would you rather have a smooth and successful social media campaign for a client, or get them a media relations hit on Good Morning America or The New York Times?”  To a person (and they are pretty plugged into the changing PR landscape) they choice the big national media relations hit.

I can’t say that I disagree with them.

I haven’t changed my thinking about social media and what it can accomplish, I am saying we may be hitting a slight plateau.  Given the continued struggle to prove ROI and the fact that EVERYONE (ad agencies, marketers, the guy on the street corner) is offering what they claim to be as comprehensive social media consulting, maybe we in PR need to re-look at our core competencies and what we can still offer.

Sure the media pool is shrinking, but it’s not dead by a long shot.  And clients eyes still get really wide when they see their products or companies on TV, online and in print.  As it gets harder to “break through” on the internet interstate that Facebook has become and as we try on the fly to figure out if Pinterest is going to be the next big play or big fail, let’s not forget what has worked for us for the last century or so.

So while we blog and slog it out to see who will comment or share our next post, we may have clearer sailing and a larger “ROI” by making sure we still reach out to national media who still know and can report a good story when they see one.

No, I haven’t changed my overall thinking.  Yes, we at Hodges are still defining best practices for social community management and have three Facebook contests going on for clients simultaneously.  But we also just completed some very cool New York media tours that will bear tremendous fruit.

As Darrell Royal, the patriarch of University of Texas football used to say, “Don’t forget to dance with the one who brung ya.”

It’s gotten us this far.

Facebook Timeline for Brands: It’s Crunch Time

by Jon Newman

Don’t be nervous.  Change is good.

That should be the Facebook brand statement.

Just when you get used to things, the mother of all social media platforms changes things up.  No change in recent history has given more marketing folks heartburn as the coming change of Facebook Brands Pages to the Facebook Timeline format.

Timeline for famed soccer club Manchester United.

The change is official in just a few days (March 30) and Jim Belosic does a great job of helping marketing folks face this reality in this blog post on PR Daily.

We at THP and HDS have been spending lots of time getting clients ready for this change as well.  In addition, I’ve been asked to speak to a PRSARVA group about those changes in April (don’t worry I’ll cover Pinterest too).   For some reason I hear seats are going fast so you may want to register here.

I agree with all of Jim’s points but folks really need to focus on:

  • The use of the cover photo as a means to show your brand without being too “promotional.”
  • The increasing importance of custom apps and what they can do to improve the virality of your page.
  • The need to use timeline to tell a creative story and move the conversation forward.
  • The importance of pinning your posts and milestones.

Later this week in this space, we’ll be making a Timeline for Brands “cheat sheet” of sorts available, so look for that by Friday.

Don’t want to give away too many spoilers on my talk but the bottom line is you have about a week….are you ready?

Quick hits: Pinterest, Twitter and what is Carnival thinking???

Some quick hitters for a Tuesday:

We (Britt Farrah @saidlikefarrah) and I started our second semester teaching social media at VCU yesterday some interesting observations from questions we asked our predominantly PR majors…

  • Most of them preferred Twitter over Facebook and other social media platforms.  In the couple of years that I’ve been asking college students this question, this is the first time ever that they selected Twitter.  In fact, this is the first time that most of the class even was “on” Twitter.  Maybe this is because the class is made up of PR majors but maybe this is a change in social media course.  We shall see….
  • I asked if they ever heard of Pinterest (my new social media obsession) and not a surprise but most of the women raised their hands.  The “pinning” platform is all the rage of the female set.  What was surprising is how some of the women expressed an almost obsessive relationship with the platform, spending hours pinning.  I for one am waiting for my Gentlemint invite to come in the email.

Finally, not related to the class but to PR in general, is Carnival Cruise lines smoking crack or what?

All I got on a Tuesday….you?

Paula Deen’s diabetes PR disaster, ya’ll

Editor’s note:  This post is a guest post from THP’s “Employee Number One” Stacey Brucia, who mans New York PR and social media outpost.

I’ve been watching CNN today and now have NY local news on in the background. And a top story of the day is Anthony Bourdain’s tweet that’s a hit against Paula Deen. It’s follow-up story to Deen’s announcement yesterday that she is a spokesperson for a diabetes drug company. I’d name then, but then I’m giving them more PR.

And that’s what I’m arguing against/feeling some disgust about.  As someone in PR, of course I have to credit the drug company for the publicity that they’re getting for securing Deen as spokeswoman…TODAY, countless mentions on CNN, pretty much every major outlet around. It’s more than a PR grandslam as far as getting the drug’s name out.  For that, I can be in a little bit of awe.

Courtesy: The Today Show

But from an ethical standpoint, both the company and Paula have gone too far.  It’s hypocritical: A woman who loves to cook with butter, sugar and pretty much every bad-for-you agreement is now giving implied medical advice (and earning money) by endorsing a drug for a disease that can be prevented with healthier eating habits.  No, I’m not a doctor, but I think that’s generally understood.

I’m not sure if there’s a competitor product to the drug that Deen has endorsed but, if so, I hope that those who need that type of medication support another company.

For my part, I’m glad there are not any Paula Deen cookbooks on my shelf.  Sometimes, I would watch her Food Network shows as pure entertainment…look at all that butter!! No more.

BTW, Paula, saying that you’ve given up sweet tea as a talking point doesn’t make the fact that you’re a diabetes spokesman any better.

Things I learned during my blog’s summer vacation.

Okay…so it’s been a while.  Shoot me.

Rather than start things with a great PR or social media proclamation, let’s ease back into the swing of things with some random thoughts on things that have popped into my brain over the course of the last few weeks.

  • There will never be a plan for Shockoe Bottom.
  • Google+ is interesting but I’m still waiting to see the business applications for it.
  • You can only stave off your wife and kids wanting a new dog for so long.
  • There are members of Richmond’s social media community who really need to get over themselves.
  • It’s amazing how many people will help others find a job in our “creative” community if you ask them.
  • Alcohol tastes really good when drunk out of a mason jar.
  • The Mets have the amazing ability to keep my attention just long enough to get me to football season.
  • You can never have too much new business on the table.
  • Amber Naslund is a great social media leader and an even better human being.
  • College Football is about to change in a geometric way.
  • Bruce will never be able to replace the BigMan, but we need a tour any way.
  • Children will survive two weeks at sleep away camp.
  • Our Pig Pickin on October 15th will definitely “kick things up a notch” (you’re all invited, BTW).
  • My wife is wonderful and is making “The Year of Me” a year I will never forget.

This fall should be exciting with work stuff and teaching a social media course at VCU but I promise to gear up the blog again if for no other reason than to be an example for the students in our class.

 

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