Monthly Archives: November 2016

Want media coverage? Think visually.

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how to gain media coverage

One needn’t be gorgeous to gain media attention. Who knew?

Join me April 27 for my Media Savvy workshop.

Whether or not your story idea results in media coverage depends on many factors: timing, talent, exclusivity, topicality and many others besides.

This bizarre form on the left, a creation by Australian artist Paula Piccinini at the behest of Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission reminded us once again of the power of strong visuals when seeking media coverage.

One determining factor that cannot be understated when seeking media coverage is vision. Striking vision. Visual appeal is the prime reason that the TAC scored media coverage here and overseas for what we see as a fairly indulgent initiative.

Graham represents what the human form would have to look like to withstand a high speed crash. Our resistance to Graham is based the fact that this is a fairly silly premise.

Our resistance is is also based on our assumption that relatively small numbers of the drivers who are so over-represented in the road toll may not be fans Piccinini’s work nor viewers of 6 o’clock news services.

Will this bizarre creature change driving habits? Not as effectively as a booze bus or speed camera. To us, Graham comes across as the sort of project that an organisation rich in resources would indulge in. But what do we know? TAC tells us that the value of the media coverage gained by Graham has more than justified his budget.

how to gain pr

High concept, big budget media fodder.

Headspace – another organisation with more resources than most – recently gained mainstream media hits when it erected this pod on the streets of Melbourne which aimed to help tackle the stigma around mental illness for young people.

Whether it meets a subjective will be hard to gauge but once again the media came coming they cannot resist a compelling image and high concept.

So what does this mean for those of us without hundreds of thousands of dollars at our disposal to spend on domes and demi-humands?

Story time

how to get a journalist to cover your story

The case dragged on for years. Way Out finally won in 2014.

Hootville was proudly supporting the Way Out Rural Youth Group some years back. Way Out – a same-sex attracted support group – was taking the Christian Brethren to court after the Brethren refused to allow them to rent its commercial campground for a weekend retreat.

We thought we had a great story pitch the Channel 9 news – good guys, bad guys, gay youth, a court case, multiple spokespeople and a controversial group of Christians.

Surely they would say yes to a pitch. But then came Chief of Staff Michael Venus’ question: “What’s the vision?”

We thought we had it covered but multiple spokespeople, Way Out members with nose rings and colourful hair hanging out just wasn’t gonna cut it.

Without more compelling vision we were going to lose a story on the Sunday night bulletin which is the most watched bulletin of the week – a big, fat, mainstream media hit if ever there was one.

PR tips

A HUGE percentage of nightly commercial news services is made up of CCTV.

Someone had the bright idea of supplying amateur video that members of the group had shot at the retreat held the previous year. The fact that the vision had been shot by amateurs on camera phones and handheld video cameras was actually a plus to the reporter who felt that it added some visual variety and showed the kids in their natural habitat.

That scrounged vision plus a helicopter shot of the campsite on Phillip Island got us over the line with ABC and Channel 9. It was a very happy Sunday night at Hootville.

That extra vision didn’t cost us anything but time and effort. At other times we’ve arranged balloon releases, staged our media event in front of the big mouth of Luna Park and once, a long time ago, staged a political launch at a tabletop dancing venue but that’s another story for another time.

The lesson is create something visually compelling whether it be as extravagant as a work of art or a three-dimensional sculpture or as simple as archival footage.

And no matter how compelling your story idea remember that it will be more compelling when accompanied by some great vision.

Lesson in summary:

Vision – the ability to offer media outlets and interesting, intriguing, colourful, dynamic imagery associated with your story – can often be the difference between getting a Yes! as opposed to a: “We’ll think about it.”

This is why we see so many, cakes sliced and balloons released at media events it gives the camera operators and photographers some thing more interesting to display than your spokespeople and pie graphs.

Here’s an incomplete list of ways you can add visual appeal to your next story pitch:

Archival imagery – still and moving.

Audio recordings

Amateur vision taken in any format on any device

Staging your launch somewhere visually intriguing such as the steps of Parliament house

how to get media coverage

Great vision. Huge coverage.

Gathering en masse is the staff at the Royal children’s Hospital in Melbourne did in this photo opportunity.

Wearing something unusual particularly en masse.

Releasing balloons, cutting cakes.

Entertainment such as children’s choir or musical act.

Concocting an entirely visually driven stunt such as Greenpeace protesters climbing the Sydney Opera House.

Supplying high quality video footage to allow cameras to essentially travel to inconvenient places whether that be your wildlife reserve in Western Australia or the inside of a particle accelerator.

Puppets and street theatre though this stuff always makes you look like a bunch of old-fashioned lefties.

media coverage  how to

Consider purchasing your own plane.

Making a big entrance Trump-style

Creating and supplying infographics or animations as is the case for so many medical and scientific stories.

Going nude. (You know you want to.)

How to facilitate

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How to emcee or facilitate a session

The call comes unexpectedly. It’s the event organiser:

“Would you mind facilitating a session at the upcoming event? No big deal. A few speakers, some intros, some Q&A. You know the deal. Cool?”

“Sure. Why not.”

Now what?

A facilitators’ role is to ensure everyone gets the most out of their time – what could be more important than that?

There isn’t one way to be a good facilitator. You don’t necessarily have to be a microphone-loving, limelight-hugging extrovert not attend my upcoming Presentation Savvy workshop. You don’t have to have a professorial knowledge of the subject matter being discussed. If you recognise the importance of the role and work through the following you will do a great job.


Make the speakers comfortable. This might mean sorting out their audio-visual needs with the techie, pouring them some water or going over the format. What the speakers do not want to hear is: “Oh I don’t really know, I’m just doing this as a favour.”

how to be a better public speaker

Be tough. Get the session started – pronto!

Start and finish on time. It’s tempting to wait for stragglers but don’t. It sends a bad message to all concerned and is plain rude to those who have turned up. Starting late means that your speakers will be cut short, Q&A time will be sacrificed or you’ll run over time. No option is OK.

Get the show on the road: welcome people, explain any truly essential housekeeping  and more importantly establish ground rules so people know why they are there and what is expected.

Re-establish the overall theme or session topic, intro the speakers and outline the format.

If you want audience participation (we sure hope you do) be clear that participation is expected and that the audience has huge influence on how worthwhile the session will be.

If organisers insist on housekeeping – sponsor thankyous, exhibitor plugs, dietary options etc – leave it to the end of the session. Mentioning this stuff at the beginning saps energy and wastes precious time.

Introduce speakers your own way: this means doing more than reading the given introduction in the program. Add some observations of your own. Perhaps you have some observation about the person’s employer, expertise or have worked with them before. If so, draw on it.

Don’t be afraid to beef up a humble introduction or downplay an introduction that is over-the-top. Generally speaking, a shorter introduction is better than a longer one. An audience only needs to know the aspects of the speaker that are relevant to the current topic so judge what is and isn’t relevant. Less is more.

Brett de Hoedt public speaker

“So who other than me has a brilliant insight on this issue?”

Encourage contributions from the floor: relay / repeat comments if they cannot be heard by everyone. Ensure contributors can be heard and seen. Attention quickly wanders if audiences can’t connect with speakers. Interpret and clarify comments made that might not be clear. Extract contributions form the audience in various ways.

Gains contributions in ways beyond speaking such as writing notes and having audience members have short one-to-one conversations.

The facilitator or emcee should always be ready to ask the first question of the speaker.

Keep the bastards honest. a good facilitator challenges assumptions, asks people to explain, counterbalances and plays the devil’s advocate. (aka advocatus diaboli in Latin). Be willing to play devil’s advocate in all directions – not just when someone says something that you find disagreeable.

Tricks of the trade for more contributions

Rove: don’t get stuck behind the lectern, rove the room with a handheld microphone and a clipboard if necessary. This is just a little more dynamic and when combined with some vox popping, keeps your audience awake.

Vox popping: don’t wait for people to raise their hands – barge up to them, ask a question and pop the microphone under their nose. This is called vox popping. Ask a simple Yes / No type question and pick someone who seems as if they have the wherewithal to respond.

Dorothy Dixers: set up some questions, anecdotes or comments beforehand from friends or connections in the audience. This is a great way to cut straight to content that you know will be interesting.

Trivia quiz: throw in one or few trivia questions. These can be a quick way to highlight some misconceptions and spark responses. Have a small fun prize for respondents – chocolate works well. Booze works better.

Personal stories: by asking for one person’s experience you can gain contributions from people who don’t feel they have an answer but do have a relevant experience.

One-to-one or small group chats: this can break up longer sessions nicely, enable people to get to know each other and extract contributions from shy people.

60 second stretches: if the crowd is getting restless give them a strict 60 seconds to stand up, stretch and have a quick natter. Then it’s back to work. This can energise a crowd.

Written responses: ask for written responses to key questions. Again this allows the shy or scandalous to contribute.

Ask the audience room for its immediate response to each others’ contributions. This can create a debate. “Anyone disagree with that?” “Anyone have any improvements to that suggestion?”

public speaking training workshops

Have mercy, be interesting.

Keep them awake: you need to inject energy so that the audience feels awake, engaged and included. I regularly ask audiences that have been sitting for too long to spend 60 seconds standing and stretching to reinvigorate.

Keeps discussion things on track tangents and conversational cul de sacs must be identified and corrected. The facilitator is in control. Never let one person dominate.

Keep speakers to time in a manner that you agree upon beforehand. A bell, a nod from the front row – whatever works.

Nothing too bad will happen.  (This isn’t brain surgery.) Enjoy it.

If you want to work on your presentation skills join me for Presentation Savvy at the Hotel Lindrum. Small group, big results, follow-up coaching and cocktails.