Media Relations

Media relations: Trust the process

By Afrika Nieves-Bentley on June 11, 2023

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A man in a suit is answering questions as reporters push their microphones and recorders in front of him.

I am not throwing away your shot

You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it take advantage of free publicity on a major television network. OK, that’s not really the saying, but it is what I was saying to myself last month while working with camera-shy clients.

I’m relatively new to the PR world, so I was thrilled to work on a campaign where my pitches were actually getting picked up. I was especially proud of myself when I reached out to a local Global News channel with a cold email, and the morning show producer agreed that my client’s story would make for an excellent segment. This client is a local entrepreneur whose business has a special niche in a crowded market. Her story would make for such great TV!

She didn’t want to do it.

Throughout the month, many of the small business owners my company was working with got cold feet when we mentioned that cameras would be recording their conversations. From Instagram Lives to network TV to podcasts, these folks did not want to talk in front of a camera.

Now if their businesses were in crisis communications mode and they were going to be grilled by investigative journalists with lots of Gotcha questions, I could understand the hesitation. Nobody wants to be the next oil CEO defending their company against killing pelicans or something. But these interviews were with friendly media hosts who wanted to give these unique businesses some well-earned publicity. These were feel-good stories about people representing their communities and creating something wonderful that they wanted to share with the rest of Canada.

Fear and dread

So why did the process of sharing make them so nervous?

Ultimately, I can’t say what goes through people’s minds. I love to play armchair psychologist, but at the end of the day, it isn’t very helpful. And as a PR practitioner, I need to get clients in front of the media on tight deadlines.

So, I went to the experts to find out what people like my clients can do when they are scared to do something but know that they should go through with it anyway.

Can’t go under it, can’t go around it, have to go through it

Stephanie Sorady, an associate psychotherapist in California, says, “Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge and validate your fear, recognizing that it’s a natural response to the unknown or challenging situations.”

She continues by giving the following advice:

“Embrace the nerves as a sign of growth. Use positive self-talk to encourage and reassure yourself of your abilities and strengths. For example, reminding yourself that you have overcome challenges before.”

Fear of being on a live TV show is a lot like stage fright, so I also reached out to Justin Büyüközer, who acts in and directs plays in Ontario, to ask what he tells anxious performers.

“Everyone experiences stage fright differently, just like any other form of anxiety,” says Büyüközer.

“The prospect of performing in front of an audience can be a trigger for many.”

He recommends trying the following techniques until you find the one that works best for you:

  • Breathing and meditation exercises to help lower your heart rate
  • Focus on enunciating your words by directing your energy to your mouth
  • Exposure therapy: Start by speaking in front of small groups of people in low-risk situations and gradually work your way up to larger audiences.

In the case of an upcoming TV interview, ask your publicist what kind of questions you think they might ask. Then, you can practice answering them in front of family members or a mirror so your answers feel more natural when the cameras are on you.

Most of all, Büyüközer says to embrace the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and find joy in telling your story to an audience.  

Sing your own special song

As I learn and grow in my practice as a PR expert, I strive to take these lessons to heart, too. I hope I can gain the trust of my clients and help them tell their stories loudly and proudly. I’m confident you can do it if I want to put you in front of the camera.

As for the Global News segment, my client did go through with it and did a fantastic job. She spoke about the importance of businesses like hers.

We all have a story to tell. Trust your PR professionals when we help you tell yours.

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