Media Interviews Where Everybody Wins

Media at Bospar

One of Walt Whitman’s many bon mots to live by was: “Do I contradict myself? Very well then – I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.”

I’ve quoted that many times over my career whenever caught in the act of, well, contradicting myself. But the most wonderful part of it is “I am large. I contain multitudes.” Think of all the wonderful implications that has for being a media spokesperson.

I was reminded of that recently when one of our clients was presented with a great interview opportunity. At first they were excited, but then they started second-guessing themselves on how deeply they could address the specific topic in which the reporter was interested. And this is a fairly common behavior.

Assuming we’re talking about a positive situation for visionary contributions, there should be few media opportunities that a C-level isn’t happy to take on. After all, you don’t make it to the C-suite unless you are large and contain multitudes.

One of the first things we present in media training is that “a question is not a command performance.” Media generally come to an interview knowing a lot less about your home territory than you do. They are fast-on-their-feet pursuers of a million stories in the naked city of technology, and their excellence is in being able to take a thread of an idea and get people like you to build it out for them.

What the media presents to you upfront usually are “fishing” questions — opening salvos to learn, as they go through an interview, what the real issues are that they should be addressing. Media are the fisherpersons, and you are the BIG FISH. If you share generously of your big- picture knowledge, wisdom and beliefs, both sides will leave the interview on a happy and productive note that might even lead to a great ongoing relationship.

Here are a few things to think about as you spread your multitudes of knowledge across broader arenas.

Colorful Usually Trumps Quantitative

Media are usually looking for anecdotal comments and commentary — not quantitative knowledge — and that is all anyone else is likely bringing to the table.

Their finished stories often stray far afield from what they said they were writing about because they “follow the content” they get from people like you. Just like with a good sports broadcast, the more detail and color you can bring to the party, the more you help the reporter write a great piece.

Each interview is literally an opportunity to help “write the story your way” if you let the real “you” drive the conversation.

And while it’s not about quantitative, a few solid proof points are always a great addition to your discussion. Your PR partner should be able to remind you of data you’ve created in-house or Google you up some third-party points.

You’ll Almost Always Be Glad You Did

If you can get good reporters on a call with you, you almost certainly can share some information that will engage them and that they will find useful for their reporting.

Not only will this likely result in a media placement, but it can also be the beginning of an important relationship — especially if you are a good and dynamic storyteller.

It is difficult to get interviews in today’s busy media world. You really shouldn’t pass on any of them if you can avoid it. Something good will almost always come of them — from a good mention in the reporter’s article to a foot in the door with a desirable publication.

You Contain Multitudes

The bottom line is that you almost certainly have more to offer a reporter than you may initially think. So, if you’re tempted to turn down an interview, first think a little more broadly about all the great wisdom you have to share.

And, as another American great, Woody Allen, said, “80 percent of success is showing up.”

Long Live the Mouse

Mouse at BosparToday, the computer mouse turns 50. Like other major technical inventions, it too will suffer the cruel effects of time and eventually fade into oblivion. In fact, while it continues to blossom in more forms, sizes, colors and capabilities than ever before, it’s already in its decline, chased by laptop and smartphone track pads and touchscreens. It’s only a matter of time before it joins gee-whiz colleagues like desktops, VCRs and flip phones on the technology hall of fame shelf.

While the future of the mouse may be dim, its past is the blazing stuff of dreams – one of the great technology tales. Its inventor, Doug Engelbart, was one of the all-time scientists of our age. He shook the technology world 50 years ago today when he did his famous demonstration in San Francisco’s Civic Center Auditorium. Doug also is credited with inventing the graphical user interface (GUI). And no interface was as mind-boggling as the ability to slide a device around on a table and cause the nearby computer to come to life and seemingly do things all on its own.

I worked closely with Doug Engelbart while helping those who led the ecosystem he created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the mouse. The event was spearheaded by our client, Logitech, which housed Doug’s Bootstrap Institute, Stanford University Libraries and The Institute for the Future. Rather than make it your routine birthday party, we set our bar at something worthier of Doug’s contributions. The plan was a full day set aside for a symposium that would draw technology’s best and brightest from around the country to come take part in a celebration of the past, combined with a look at the future.

We called it “The Unfinished Revolution.” We dedicated the morning to a look at the last 30 years of computing technology. And the afternoon was spent looking ahead at the next 30. It was a day to remember. Speakers who came to honor Doug and share their vision included luminaries like Alan Kay, Jaron Lanier, Stewart Brand and Andy Van Dam. Media coverage was massive – from CBS News with Dan Rather to a multi-page spread in Business Week. The Bootstrap Institute still has full details on the event posted on its site.

It was an incredibly good-feeling day all around. But the greatest feeling of all was from Doug’s reaction. He told us that it was, quite simply, one of the best days of his life. That’s the kind of memory one treasures forever.

Doug’s Bootstrap Institute continues on. He founded it to achieve the lofty mission of “boosting mankind’s capability for coping with complex, urgent problems.” And can’t we all just use a whole lot more of that.

The 50th anniversary of the mouse is in some ways a farewell to it. Chances are that by the time its 60th anniversary rolls around, there will be a new generation who doesn’t know what a mouse is any more than older ones no longer know what a carbon copy was. But the real celebration is around all the innovations that the mouse, and all of Doug’s other inventions, have spawned.

The mouse will always live as a major breakthrough of our past and a vital link to our future. And never has Doug’s goal of “boosting mankind’s capability for coping with complex, urgent problems” been more needed than it is today.

Long live the mouse and all its tech offspring. Long live Doug’s vision.

Bring It On!

Chile Peppa at bosparI used to have a colorful ceramic tile in my office that said, “Never too old to be a chile peppa.”

This week, I am proud to be named one of The Holmes Report’s “25 Innovators of 2018.” In other words – they named me an official chile peppa.  And that feels really good.

I don’t have the tile in my office anymore.  Not because I no longer have the tile, but because I no longer have an office.  And the path that led me to no longer having the office is the same one that led me, I believe, to this great Holmes honor.

Over the last several decades, PR has seen more innovation than most industries see in several lifetimes.  The base upon which PR was founded was the highly controlled “three national TV networks and two papers in every town” model.  But media was already splintering into thousands of analog shards by the time digital hit.  And now it has become an infinite number of unique digital particles.  Of even more import – peers are the new third-party influencers.  We’re proud of the innovation we bring to our clients in how to succeed in this very different world.

But that’s for another blog on a different day.  Because the innovation I’m actually most proud to be recognized for at this time is: how do we organize these days to grow the people and the teams to create PR excellence in this new digital world?  How do we enable and empower a new generation of chile peppas?

I spent the first chunk of my career learning how to manage within the campuses of the largest multinational PR firms – the kind with a fancy office in every major market around the world.  I spent the next chunk running my own operation of one major office and a handful of small ones.  Those were all amazing times and great learning experiences.

But now it’s a whole new dimension. For the last several years I’ve been immersed in the most exhilarating experience of all – designing how to run a virtual PR firm.  Our goal has been to exceed the results of our physical counterparts, and we’ve done that.  We’ve won many awards for our performance, including PR Week naming us Outstanding Boutique Agency of 2018.  And we’ve grown to nearly 30 people in less than five years.

It’s the ultimate world of innovation.  People say, “Oh, you’re remote.”  No – we’re not remote at all.  Remote is when most people come to an office and a few work “remotely” from home – removed from the action.  We come to work every morning on our laptop, with Zoom video, emails, Slack and a number of other apps open throughout the day, and all dive headlong, together, into the action.

We’ve thought through every detail of how people work together and how that needs to translate to a digital environment.  While some aspects might lose a bit of the physical benefits in translation, the majority of them actually gain benefits over the physical.  We are fine-tuning every aspect of digital personal interaction, and, in the process, we’ve created the most intimate, team-oriented environment in which I’ve ever worked.

I’m fortunate to have lived my life so far on “an innovation high.” I can’t imagine any other way to live.  As a kid, a blank piece of paper was so exciting it would make me hyperventilate.  My favorite quote has always been, “Only when you learn how to see the invisible, can you do the impossible.”  Every day there is some magic opportunity to do things a bit differently than people expect.  Including me!  I never fail to amaze myself.  Sometimes in a bad way but usually in a good one.

We are living in the most exciting times ever and taking our PR profession to new, meaningful places never dreamed about a few decades ago.  Together, we are a proud and vital world of ripening chile peppas.