I’ve been hearing this question quite a bit since CBS News ran its lid-lifting piece on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony. I’m hoping you will find my experience helpful the next time a reporter approaches you.
I wish I could say there was a grand plan to nab that interview in an attempt to raise my profile. The fact is I didn’t pitch them and had no idea ahead of time that the request was coming. Which begs the question, how did they find me?
Planning for the Long Haul
Admittedly, there was some serendipity involved. Yet there was also some planning years ago; one of those things in which you invest, but never know when it might pay off. You just have to trust that it will (or if it doesn’t, be willing to accept the business consequences and move on).
A few years back, I collaborated with my videographer to produce a series of videos in which I explained the finer points of, among other topics, dealing with the media and speaking in public. This is the same pro I used to shoot my media training workshops. He not only had experience as a news cameraman, he had also produced documentaries, so he was a perfect fit for this project (to my great chagrin, he retired not long ago and moved out of the Washington, D.C., area; I miss his professionalism and his friendship dearly).
One of the videos we produced centered on Congressional testimony, which brings us full circle back to CBS. Its executive producer wanted a story on Zuckerberg’s upcoming appearance, set to take place in just a few days. One of their producers went on the hunt, searching online for such terms as “executives who testify before Congress.”
My web page for that subject was among those to pop up on the first page of her search. It is instructive to note, however, that it was not the first search result. What led her to contact me as opposed to companies that appeared at the very top? My video explaining how to testify on Capitol Hill, pure and simple. Apparently, the other sites did not include videos. Mine does.
The Dummy Test
Why does that matter? It demonstrated that I knew how to talk on camera and did not look overly hideous (insert your own joke here). They did not need to fret over whether this guy could handle an on camera interview; the proof was in the video.
There was another benefit to that video. Producers typically hold a pre-interview with potential guest experts over the telephone before booking them (I call it the dummy test). They want to gain some assurance that you know how to talk and have a clear and concise story. The producer who contacted me conducted only the most perfunctory of pre-interviews. Again, I’m assuming the video told them most of what they needed to know in order to gain a comfort level.
After that, it was just a matter of logistics. They had a fairly tight deadline, so once we agreed to a time for the interview, I scooted over to their studios on M Street, NW. Everything ran smooth. The producer was as professional and nice as could be, as was Chief Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes, who delivered a series of solid, incisive questions during her interview.
I’ve heard lots of feedback, which is always appreciated and considered. After all, that’s how we learn, by assessing feedback.
Then there were the anecdotes, like one colleague who told me she was home having dinner with a friend when the segment aired. Surprised, she said, “I know him!” Another couple I had just visited a few days earlier was eating dinner while watching the broadcast. The husband turned to the wife and asked whether she noticed anything strange. Her reply: “Like the guy who was sitting in our living room a couple of days ago is on the network evening news?!”
Others have opined that the appearance is likely to immediately propel my business to new heights. That would be nice, and I’m all for it. At the same time, after 20 years in business I’m realistic enough (or jaded, take your pick) to realize that—as with the video—these things tend to build slowly and randomly. I’m not anticipating an imminent flood of calls. Though weeks, months, or years down the road, who knows? Maybe another network—or another big, glitzy client—will get in touch.