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Secrets of Media Darlings

I have two things I’m telling clients all the time in this economic downturn — I mean all the time, like in every single meeting we have. The first is, “you will lose if you keep playing by the old rules.” The second is, “you have to make PR your number one outreach.”

So that’s why, no matter where you’re at as an entrepreneur or small business, you should read Carmine Gallo’s Seven Secrets of Media Darlings published today in Business Week.

Now, I’m as sick of “Seven” this and “Ten” that type of essays with the word “Secrets” or “Laws” or whatever as the next media-super-saturated guy on the block — listen, zombie editors, can’t you hacks come up with something more original? How about “The Square Root of 15 Half-Ways to Open a Business,” or “Pi-Squared Unbreakable Suggestions of Advertising”?

That pustule of pique off the table, this is a must-read summary (and book) of what makes a good media go-to interviewee. However, as someone who has done quite a bit of my share of being interviewed by the media, I’d say he’s missing one “secret,” maybe two. So we’ll call this post “The Square Root of 64th Final Secret of Media Darlings.” Or the “One and a Quarter Hitherto Unknown Secrets of Media Darlings.” After the break, of course.

If you’ve done any work with the media, you’ve got these “seven secrets” down pat. If not, you really should start here:

  • Media darlings are passionate.
  • They are easy to understand.
  • They know when to shut up.
  • They are confident.
  • They are authentic (or they’re really good at pretending to be authentic).
  • They surprise.
  • They don’t overpromote (big one, this).

    So what’s the eighth secret, the one that even Gallo doesn’t know? (Actually, he does. The publisher said, “Seven, Carmine, seven secrets! Not 9! Get rid of two or I’ll get rid of you!)

    Here’s my secret eight:

    Media darlings write the story.

    Journalists are just like the rest of us — they’re fundamentally lazy. They vastly prefer interviewees who write the story for them, that is, provide an overall argument, thesis, or story arc for the piece they’re putting together. You always score big when your take on the issue becomes the governing thesis of the overall piece.

    You should have an overarching vision of the entire story and sell it to the interviewer.

    There’s actually an eighth and one quarter secret (I’m determined to subvert the “Integer” “Noun” paradigm of business writing here, determined, I say):

    Media darlings are provocative.

    They do more than present a point of view, they present something original which gets other people interested or excited. Now folks like Ann Coulter and Bill O’Reilly have made entire careers by saying things that are not only mightily provocative, they’re downright angrifying. You know that Ann Coulter’s publisher or book agent has a multiple regression equation somewhere that correlates offensive statements she makes in terms of book sales (the more offensive the statement, the larger the press play, and the more books get sold). I’m serious; if they don’t, they’re not doing their job.

    I’m not saying you should adopt a take-no-prisoners offense like Ann or Bill, unless, like them, you’re selling offensiveness. However, they, and other media darlings, teach you that you need to say things that provoke people to think or to feel. Media darlings have mastered the art of becoming the news themselves. Not making news, but being the news.

    Remember, the “news” is in the business of the “new,” and it’s not unsurprising that modernist artists liked to talk about the “shock of the new.” “New” never comes in quietly on little cats feet. “News” is not in the business of the “old,” so you get nowhere telling the same story over and over again.

    As Ezra Pound described poetry eighty years ago as “news that stays news,” interviewees who consistently serve up provocative, original ideas are also “news that stays news.”

    Here’s Gallo’s book version of the seven secrets.

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