Episode 66 | Posted on

Bringing Your Best Self to Every Media Appearance with Rachel Hanfling

Today, we’re speaking with Rachel Hanfling, who’s an Emmy-nominated TV producer, international keynote speaker, and media and communication consultant who spent two decades producing for some of the nation’s biggest names. She’s here to share her tips on media training to help you present yourself to look strong, capable and competent no matter the medium.

In this Episode

  • [01:22] – What exactly is media training, and why do you need it? In her answer, she reveals that one should think strategically about media from the beginning, not wait until you already have media attention.
  • [03:39] – Rachel explains more about what media training is exactly.
  • [05:52] – We hear an example of  details that can ruin a whole interview if not there.
  • [08:16] – There are two main dangers to preparing specific answers: 1. You might not prepare for the right questions. 2. It will sound canned and won’t resonate with your process.
  • [09:24] – Rachel talks about what a pre-interview is.
  • [12:46] – When someone in the media calls unexpectedly, should you put off the call (for a few minutes or a few hours) to give yourself time to prepare? Rachel’s answer is that you should only do this if there are factors that would interfere with the call currently. If you’ve done your homework in advance, you should be ready to go at any time.
  • [15:14] – Rachel talks us through the processes of finding potential guests for Oprah’s show.
  • [17:16] – If you aren’t the best fit for what the producer is looking for, should you suggest someone else for them to contact? In her answer, Rachel emphasizes the importance of trust and relationship-building.
  • [19:40] – What should you do with the various pitches that you should have prepared?
  • [21:44] – Rachel discusses the importance of having previous TV clips when trying to get on a big show like Oprah. She reveals that it’s not absolutely necessary, but definitely helpful.
  • [23:20] – How would Rachel suggest somebody should get started in making media appearances?
  • [24:58] – We hear about how relationship-building led to Rachel being on Brendon Burchard’s stage.
  • [26:06] – Rachel talks about the differences in preparing for various kinds of appearances. What’s the same throughout, she explains, is your messaging.
  • [29:20] – Dealing with a remote camera situation is tough, because there’s no human connection, Rachel explains. She shares her thoughts on how to make the best of this situation.
  • [31:20] – What should you wear if you’re sitting versus if you’re standing?
  • [33:03] – Rachel gives some advice on how to sit during an appearance.
  • [34:07] – What are some of the hooks you should offer a journalist or a producer? When you’re trying to get any kind of media attention, you need to pay attention to what’s going on in the world, Rachel answers. She then talks about promoting yourself with hooks.
  • [37:14] – Stephan asks Rachel if she has any horror stories to share about the pre-interview process. She deftly avoids giving a specific answer, while still providing a great tip: don’t confuse talking about your product with delivering something that could be useful to media. Think about the opposite perspective of Toby Keith’s song I Wanna Talk About Me, she advises.
  • [41:19] – Rachel talks about providing value.
  • [42:23] – We hear Rachel’s thoughts on having a book published as it relates to TV appearances and media attention.
  • [43:59] – Stephan starts a mock pre-interview process with Rachel, and they roleplay the parts.
  • [47:02] – With the roleplaying over, Rachel critiques Stephan’s performance and gives insight into how his answers relate to what she’s been saying. Her biggest tip to him is to sound excited and passionate.
  • [49:50] – Stephan responds to Rachel’s critique. She then points out that the more energy and enthusiasm you can show, the better (up to a point!).
  • [51:32] – In relation to having energy in your voice, Stephan talks about having recently interviewed Roger Love on his other podcast, Get Yourself Optimized. You can hear that conversation here.
  • [52:05] – How could somebody work with Rachel? She has a course on her website, Rachel Hanfling’s Media Power Plan. She also coaches people on various aspects of media attention, public speaking, and communications.


Hello and welcome to Marketing Speak. I’m your host Stephan Spencer and today we have Rachel Hanfling joining us. Rachel is an Emmy-nominated TV producer, international keynote speaker, and media and communications consultant who spent two decades producing for some of the nation’s biggest names including Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper. Last year, Rachel co-created and co-executive produced a special called 7 Little Johnstons on Oprah Winfrey’s network OWN. Prior to that, Rachel was one of the core producers for Anderson Cooper’s daytime show Anderson. Prior to that, Rachel produced for almost a decade at the Oprah Winfrey show. She was known for finding and nurturing highly sensitive guests such as domestic violence survivors as well as producing power players like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Julia Roberts, Vera Wang, and Ryan Seacrest. Rachel, it’s great to have you on the show.

Hey, thank you for having me. I was delighted to hear from you and I’m really looking forward to this.

Awesome. Let’s start with just what exactly is media training and why do you need it?

That’s a really good question. Media training is getting yourself ready for media. When I say media I could be talking about TV which is my background, newspapers, any kind of print, radio, anything online. Media is vast. It’s extremely important. The reason why I loved that you asked the question is because sometimes people think, “Hey, I’ll get ready for media when maybe I get some media attention.” You can do that if media attention comes to you, of course. I can help you prepare as much as possible in a short period of time, but the more strategic way to handle it is to start thinking about media from the beginning. If you’re thinking of writing a book, thinking from the beginning about how would I promote this book, how would I get media attention? Or if you’re creating a product or basically anything that you’re putting out into the world. The more you start thinking about that from the very beginning, the more successful a book or product you’re going to create because you’re going to create it with an audience in mind and also the more successful you’re going to be in terms of getting media attention.

Right. Media training encompasses TV, radio, print and so forth. Let’s go specifically to TV for a moment because you’ve had so much experience with that. You were Oprah’s kind of right hand person screening all the potential interviewees, guests for the show and doing the whole pre interview process and everything. With media training for TV, is it more of the logistics and technique of it? Like for example you’re wearing a suit, you’re a guy and you pull the back tail of your suit and sit on it so that it looks nice on TV. That’s a technique sort of thing. Or is it more of the strategy of how to present yourself and look strong, capable, competent just like you’ve got all the answers and you’re smooth and savvy?

Oprah had a phenomenal team and I was privileged to be a part of it. It was a big operation that everyday I just felt so lucky to wake up and be a part of a group that made such an impact on the world. It’s interesting when you ask about what media training is because it’s both of what you just described and so much more. It’s the small nuances like how you sit in a chair with your clothing, and it’s the bigger picture strategy of content, how you position yourself. Everything about that is encompassed in what I view as media training. It starts with how you think about what you have to put out into the world and how you think about how you can target that to different mediums that might be right for you. Once you get the attention of whatever particular outlets you’re looking at, it’s how do you prepare for that. Let’s say you get an opportunity to be on XYZ show and you’re super excited about it because you know how important this could be for your business. You want to be thinking about all kinds of things. What questions might you be asked? How would you answer those? What question don’t you want to be asked so that you can think about how you would answer those too? Often, people don’t prepare for what they don’t want to be asked because they’re just hoping that they don’t get asked that but that’s not actually a plan. You want to prepare for every scenario. It’s the words that are going to come out of your mouth. It’s your body language. It’s how you walk onto a step if you have a walk on. It’s how you sit down in that chair. It’s what you wear. It’s your hair and makeup which is typically more of the challenge for women than it is for men but for men too, grooming is extremely important. It’s all that and so much more because the details are really important as well as the big picture.

It starts with how you think about what you have to put out into the world and how you think about how you can target that to different mediums that might be right for you.

Give me an example of a detail that if it’s done wrong, it just ruins the whole interview.

What I think is most important in an interview is the preparation for content needs to be there. That’s something I spend a lot of time on with people, figuring out how they’re going to say what they want and how they can do it in as succinct a way as possible. This is not a small detail, this is actually one of the most important things. The key with doing that is to be so comfortable with your messaging, to have it become so much of a part of who you are that it doesn’t sound like you’re just delivering messaging or delivering talking points, as some people call it. The key with doing that is that you’re present in the moment and you’re really engaging with the person who’s interviewing you. That’s about how you make people feel. If you just appeal to people’s heads and you have all the content and all that sounds great, that’s really, really important. But if you don’t have the other layer of making people feel like you’re connecting with them, like you get them, like they’re interested in what you have to say, like they’re engaged in what you have to say; if you don’t connect to people’s hearts, then you’re not going to have the kind of successful interview that you want to have. That is the key. The key is being present in the moment. The key is connecting to people on that kind of visceral level. That’s what makes you memorable. That’s not a small detail but I do think that is the most important thing when anybody is being interviewed in anyway. That’s really not just on TV. That could be if you’re sitting in a job interview, that could be from a stage. You could say all the right things. You do need to say the right things but you need to make people feel.

It’s kind of a continuum. You could be totally unprepared with your messaging and your material and you’re just winging it and it sounds terrible, or on the other end of the spectrum, it’s completely canned, you just get your talking points and you’ve rehearsed them a hundred times and that’s all you’re going to say. If they throw you a curveball, you look like a deer in headlights because that’s not something you rehearsed. You need to be somewhere in the middle where you have a good sense of what you’re going to deliver in terms of value and content but it’s not rehearsed sounding. It doesn’t seem canned.

Right. There are several dangers, but two main dangers to preparing specific answers for questions. The first is let’s say you prepared five different answers and someone asked you something that isn’t on that list, well then you are that dear in the headlight just like you said. The other is that unless you really internalize what your messaging is, so it’s not just a matter of spouting out something you memorized, but unless you really internalize it and understand how to share it in different settings, in different ways, as parts of different questions, and really connect to the person who’s asking you the question and at the same time try to be thinking about who’s going to be listening to it if it’s just audio or watching it if it’s TV. Unless you do that, then it’s really not going to resonate. It just sounds canned, as you said.

Right. You need to be as prepared for the pre interview process and sounding as slick and present and expert-like as when you’re actually going to be in front of the cameras.

A lot of people don’t know what a pre interview is. Should we talk about that first?


Awesome. A pre interview is when somebody from media, let’s say it’s a TV producer, calls you up and they are reaching out to you. It could be a two minute conversation. It could be a two hour conversation. It could be a dialogue that goes on over months and months. Basically, the bottomline of it is that you’re being vetted for the opportunity to be on TV. The producer is gauging everything that you say through the lens of, “Is this person going to be a good guest for the show?” It’s what you say, how you say it, how the producer thinks that you would resonate with the host of the show who you’d be talking to, how the producer thinks that you would resonate with an audience. If you pass that and you’re successful, then most likely you’re going to get the gig. There are other things like just timing and what’s going on in the world and all kinds of other factors that come to play but you need to meet that threshold of being successful in the pre interview to get the gig. Why do you want to prepare for a pre interview? You want to prepare for a pre interview because you never know when you’re going to get that phone call that could be the pre interview. Maybe it’s going to be at [3:00]PM on a holiday weekend when you’re throwing a barbecue and you pick up the phone and there’s a producer wanting to talk to you. When opportunity knocks, you want to be ready for it. You don’t want that to be the time that you’re first starting to think about what you would want to say about your topic. You want to be able to just ease into it and just show off the best of who you are. That goes back to why you want to prepare for media in advance because when you’re out in the world doing great things, as I know folks who are going to be listening are, sometimes you’re fortunate to have people reach out to you. Doesn’t always work out that way but sometimes it does. When you’re fortunate like that to have people reach out to you, you want to be able to maximize those opportunities because sometime they come around again but often they don’t. You want to be ready when they do. Yes, you absolutely want to be prepared.

One thing I had learned from a media trainer many, many years ago, well over a decade ago, was that if you get called by a journalist, producer, or whatever, you don’t initially just jump into whatever the process, the pre interview or just them quizzing you about what’s going on with the industry or what have you. You find out when you can call them back and then you prep. Even if you buy yourself just a few minutes, you collect yourself, you collect your thoughts, you get in a quiet space, and then you call them back and you’re going to have better results. That’s what that media trainer taught me. Is it true or should you jump in and take the call when it comes in because opportunity might not knock a second time if you try and put them off for five minutes or two hours or whatever, you might lose the opportunity. What’s the right answer here?

I would say that’s something interesting to consider and in certain situations it might be the right answer. For instance, if you know you’re outside somewhere where you’re getting terrible reception and you know it’s going to be a frustrating conversation, well then I would say, “I’m so thrilled you called. I want to be somewhere where I can hear you, you can hear me, because I respect your time. I’m going to go try to get to somewhere where I have good reception and is it okay if I call you back in 10 minutes or if that’s not okay when is the soonest I can call you back?” In that kind of situation, I would do something like that or any kind of situation where it’s really impossible to have a conversation. But my belief is if you’re prepared, if you really understand what you’re all about, what is significant to you, what you want to put out there into the world, and you’ve done your homework in advance, you really shouldn’t need that. You should be able to just hop on the phone and tell the person you are thrilled to hear from them and move into a conversation. Because first of all, that shows confidence and second of all it shows that you’re respecting the producer’s time because the producer is obviously calling you at that very moment because that very moment is best for them. It’s either best for them because they’re on a super tight deadline or it’s best for them for some other reason, but either way you’re respecting their time. I wouldn’t look at that as a hard and fast roll. I would look at it as if you truly are in a situation where you can’t, I don’t know maybe you’re walking into a doctor’s office and it’s important for your health or some other reason why you can’t take a call, then I would give the producer the soonest opportunity that you can get back on the phone and let them know that you really do want to talk to them. In general, I think if you’ve done your homework, that should not be necessary.

Got it. Let’s walk through, what was Oprah’s process? She’d get all these amazing authors on her show and the book sales would just go through the roof as soon as their episode aired where they were getting interviewed by Oprah. Did they just get a random call out of the blue from you or was there a whole process before that, setting things up? How did you guys pick who to pre interview or consider for the book club? How did all that work?

I think that’s pretty much standard throughout the industry. There isn’t just one way that someone ends up on the phone with a potential guest. There are a lot of ways that you could find a potential guest. Whether that’s through reading about them, seeing them on another TV show, maybe you used a book or a product that they’ve created yourself and you’re interested in it, maybe it’s just the topic of personal interest, maybe it’s something that came up in a pitch meeting. There are so many different things that could precede that phone call and sometimes whatever producer is going to be calling a potential guest has had a lot of time to research the guest before they get on the phone and they really know a lot about that guest. Sometimes they don’t know a lot about that guest and it’s learning about that person on the fly. When you’re on the other end of that phone call, you may not know which one that is and you may not know exactly why you’re getting that phone call. The important thing is to maximize it when you do get that phone call. Also, to remember that the person on the other end of that phone call is a human being and that part of your job isn’t just to be selling yourself. Your primary job is to make a connection with that producer so that you begin to develop a relationship with that producer and try to get a sense of what that producer is looking for so that you can then look at yourself and say, “Okay, is this something that I can provide? How can I provide it in a way that would be most useful to that producer?” And then deliver that to that producer. That’s when you’re going to be most successful.

Let’s say that you’re not the best fit for what the producer is looking for. Do you just offer an alternative recommendation that they can interview or do you try to get on TV or get featured anyways? I’m guessing the long term answer is to be more altruistic but I’ll let you answer that.

I think you’re right on the money there because I look at any kind of opportunity through the lens of the most important thing is that you’re developing a relationship. What’s the fundamental thing every relationship is based on? Trust. If you truly feel that you are not the right fit for an opportunity, I don’t think you should try to morph yourself into something that you’re not just so that you can get that opportunity. However, I do think that you should try to learn about the opportunity and see what it’s all about, see if maybe you could contribute in a way that isn’t immediately obvious that you could contribute. If you still truly feel that you’re not the right person then yeah, if you do have somebody that you have confidence in, that you know well, that you feel like would be a good reflection of you, that you can recommend, I would absolutely do that.


That should be respected. That’s going to be remembered and then next time, if you’re developing a relationship with that producer, the producer is going to remember, “Oh, I remember that guy, that guy in Wisconsin. He was so awesome. He wasn’t the right fit that time but he turned me on to somebody who was and I really appreciated that. Maybe I’ll give him a call now because I know he is the right guy.”

Makes sense. Do you also have pitches prepared where you could talk on these different angles like for example a long time ago you had suggested that as an alternative angle that I could get on TV with would be talking about SEO, Search Engine Optimization is not that sexy as far as getting on TV, but talking about identity theft and how a few Google searches away are all sorts of personal details about you that somebody could use to steal your identity. That would be worthy of good TV and that could get me on more general interest show. Do you have a batch of these pitches prepared so when you get the call you can give them a few different options or are you outreaching with these different pitches on a regular basis to the different producers hoping that they’ll buy it? How does all that work?

In terms of what you just said about your personal situation, the key word there was general audience because let’s say it was an audience specifically about business marketing of website, let’s just say. Well then, SEO is a super, super interesting. It might not be as interesting to somebody who’s watching a morning show with their cornflakes on a Sunday morning. Maybe interesting isn’t the right word but it just might not be something that would be top of mind to be interested in. In terms of the question whether you should pitch or whether you should wait for people to come to you, you’re going to be more successful when people come to you. Why are you going to be more successful? Because if media is reaching out to you, that means that they’re already interested, they’re already hoping you’re going to be a good fit, otherwise they wouldn’t be picking up the phone. Whereas when you’re pitching someone cold, you are starting to forge a relationship from nothing and you have to prove yourself. Your odds of success are more when somebody reaches out to you. That’s also why I focus so much on relationship building and not just trying to have one successful appearance because when you develop relationships with people over a period of years, they’re going to come back to you over and over again for things that are really important to you. That’s not to say that you can’t pitch people cold or that you shouldn’t, it’s just a matter of targeting the right audience that is going to be receptive to you and really doing your homework about what that outlet, whoever that outlet is, what that outlet cares about.

How important is it to have a portfolio of pre-existing TV appearances in order to get on a show like Oprah or something of high caliber like that? If you’re not seasoned on TV, is it basically no chance of getting on the show?

I would never tell someone there is no chance. That’s just not true. I want people to know that there is opportunity out there and with the right strategy and with the right efforts and training, there is so much potential. That said, when you’re looking at a show, the more competitive the show is, the more difficult it is to get that booking. If you do have previous experience that shows you in a positive light, that’s going to work to your advantage. But I wouldn’t say to somebody never. Nothing is impossible. You turn on your TV at any moment and you could be seeing somebody who’s on TV for the first time. Aim high, but I also tell people that it’s good to start smaller because if you start smaller, with a smaller audience where it’s less competitive then you can grow with your audiences. You can make mistakes on a smaller scale because in the beginning, everybody is learning, everybody is growing and you can do it on a smaller stage.

What would be a good entry-level market or a way to find your feet? Is it a really small morning show, like a small market such as Tucson or is it a very niche show or is it not even TV but maybe radio first? How do you suggest somebody starts?

It could be any of those. It really could. I believe there’s a one right path but any of those are great ideas. If you’re looking at a smaller market, that’s clearly going to be less competitive than looking at a bigger market in terms of TV. When you’re doing radio, you are only thinking about what you’re saying, the words that are coming out of your mouth and the tone of your voice. You’re not thinking about the whole body language component, so that’s a good way to get your feet wet because you only are focusing on one aspect. It could be something online that maybe has a smaller audience. There are a lot of ways to learn how to develop yourself as a speaker. Also, the more speaking you’re doing in general, the more stages you get on, the more comfortable you get just talking to people, speaking up in a meeting at work, giving business pitches. All of that comes into play in terms of your comfort level and being with media.

You’ve done a lot of speaking on other people’s stages. In fact, that’s how we met.


You spoke at Brendon Burchard’s Experts Academy and you did a fantastic job. I ended up signing up for your course. Any tips on getting on stages that will propel your career forward? I’m sure that it really helped you to be on Brendon’s stage versus just somebody else that’s not got a huge following like Brendon.

That goes back to relationship building as well. I knew Brendon from putting him on Anderson Cooper’s show when I was producing there and that lead to me being on his stage. The more relationships you can develop, the more likely you are to end up with speaking gigs. In terms of getting ready for speaking, the same preparation I would do with somebody for media I would recommend for speaking. Yes, there are different nuances in terms of preparing for media versus preparing for stage because it’s a different medium but the rigor of preparation I think should be the same because you’re putting yourself out there and it’s really important how you’re perceived.

Any differences in that rigor preparation for speaking on somebody’s stage versus being on TV? Are there any different warm up exercises that are different? Mindset, is that different at all? Any differences at all in this process?

I think when you saw me speak, actually I think that was an interview format, if I’m remembering correctly. Typically if I’m prepping somebody for a speech, that speech could be 10 minutes, it could be an hour, it could be in front of 10 people in a room or it could be in front of millions and millions of people worldwide. It’s different when you’re prepping to be standing on a stage by yourself and you’re just doing the talking and you’re leading versus when you’re on TV, you’re typically being interviewed by somebody. There are differences like that. There are differences also in terms of how you disseminate your content. If you’re talking for an hour, that’s very different than being interviewed by someone for two minutes. If your interview is for two minutes, you’re really thinking about how you’re going to say what you want to say in the absolutely shortest way possible. If you’re getting on a stage for an hour, you know your goal is very different and how you’re going to expand on certain points and rope in the audience. Those are some differences off the top of my head. There’s also differences in terms of being live versus being on tape. There are differences if you are via satellite. There are differences in what you might wear if you were sitting versus if you were standing. There are small details like that and some are bigger details but what’s the same throughout is your messaging and being comfortable with your messaging. Once you’re more and more comfortable with your messaging, it’s like an accordion; you can shrink it or you can make it really, really long. The other thing that is the same no matter what format you’re in is focusing on how you’re making people feel. If you’re on a stage, you want every person in that audience to be feeling you. Not just talking to a group of 500 people as if they’re a group but as if they’re 500 people that you’re having an individual relationship with. When you’re going on TV, you want to think of it the same way. It’s hard to do because it’s just a camera in front of you and you’re in a studio but you want to be thinking of it in terms of how am I having a relationship with the person who’s interviewing with me. How are we connecting and then how what is going on between us can impact the living beings that are getting to view that interview on their TV or on their computer.

I remember one time I was in New Zealand, I was interviewed for a national program and it was in a room where there was nobody in the room. It was a remote camera situation and it was just the weirdest thing trying to connect with the audience or the interviewer when you’re by yourself in a room like let’s say you’re via satellite or whatever. That’s tough. Any specific tips for that kind of situation?

Yeah, you are so right. That is tough. It’s really tough because you don’t have that human connection and you have to create it within yourself in terms of the way you think about your mindset and what you’re putting out there. There are some technical things that are just good to be aware of. For instance, if you’re via satellite, sometimes you might have a return monitor and a return monitor would be a monitor where you see what’s happening in the studio. You want to make sure that you’re looking into the camera and not looking at the monitor. The same thing if you’re doing an interview on your computer, you don’t want to be looking where you can see the person talking on your computer, you want to be looking straight into the camera and sometimes that’s confusing for people because the natural inclination is to want to look at the person who’s talking to you. Also, there are some audio things that if you’re via satellite, you may have to get used to. But in terms of the mindset, the mindset is really just trying to envision yourself talking to a human being on the other end which in fact you are doing and making that feel as real as possible. I would almost think of it like a really important but intimate phone conversation or something where you’re curled up on your couch and I used that analogy because you want it to feel comfortable. Of course you would need to appear presentable and appropriate but I use that analogy because you want it to feel real and you want people to be able to feel you no matter where you are. If you envision yourself somewhere comfortable like curled up on your couch talking to someone that you care about, it’s easier to get yourself in that mindset.

If you envision yourself somewhere comfortable like curled up on your couch talking to someone that you care about, it’s easier to get yourself in that human mindset. Click To Tweet

That makes sense. You mentioned just one little nuances where if you’re sitting versus standing. What would be the tips for that?

Oh, I love this. When you’re shopping for what you’re going to wear, whether it’s on stage or on camera, I recommend that you have pictures taken of you in whatever you’re considering buying. You should take several pictures. Take one head to toe. Take one from the chest up. Take one from the side. Take one from the back. Take one sitting down from the front. Take one sitting down from the side. Why are you taking all these pictures? You’re trying to mimic whatever setting you might be in when you’re wearing it. This is more an issue typically for women although it is to some extent an issue for men as well. For instance, for women, sometimes when we sit in a dress or in a skirt, it’ll bunch up in a way that doesn’t look particularly like we’re putting our best foot forward. Certain fabrics wrinkle. You want to see how whatever it is you’re wearing looks in the position that you’re actually going to be in when you’re doing the interview, whether that’s on camera or on stage, and that’s what you should go buy, not what your naked eye says when you’re in the dressing room and you’re thinking that it looks great. You really want to look at the photos and see how it actually looks in the environment that you’re going to be doing the interview.

Yeah and speaking of that environment, if you are sitting on a chair versus on this big poofy couch, the way that you’re going to sit impact how presentable and how you’re received. If you’re on this big poofy couch, you don’t want to sit way in the back, right?

Great, absolutely, good point. You want to be comfortable. If you’re comfortable and you feel comfortable, that’s going to show and that’s going to help you connect to the people who are watching so that’s really critical. But that said, typically I would recommend leaning forward versus leaning back just like you’re lounging or something like that, that’s not typically appropriate.

Yup. Now that you’ve got some tips and strategies and so forth for presenting your best self on TV or on radio or whatever the format is that makes sense for you, what’s the hook that’s going to get you the most media play? Is it something that is local to that market? Is it something that’s a trending topic? Essentially you’re newsjacking something that’s really hot and taking up all the media space at the moment. What are the hooks that you should offer the journalist or the producer?

Well, you mentioned a couple of really good ones. The second thing you mentioned is critically important. When you’re trying to get any kind of attention, it’s super important to be paying attention to what’s going on in the world whether that’s nationally or locally. You can’t be in your own little bubble, otherwise you don’t understand how whatever it is you’re all about, whatever it is you’re trying to promote, fits into the greater conversation. I always recommend to people that they are consuming media. Sometimes people tell me, “I don’t like consuming media. It’s depressing or it takes up too much time.” I understand that and of course you need to take care of your own mental health and if you do think it’s upsetting to you, you need to take care of yourself. But you wouldn’t go to any business without doing your research. If I wanted to open up a furniture store or something, I wouldn’t just open up a furniture store, I would research the furniture industry. Media is no different. If you don’t understand what’s out there, if you don’t understand what shows do, if you don’t understand what they don’t do, if you don’t understand the character of that show, the host of that show, the experts on that show, if you don’t know just generally what’s going on in the news, you can’t position yourself. Staying on top of the news is really, really important. Also, I say to people, it’s not just news that interests you. Let say you’re an SEO expert and the only thing that you read about is SEO. That’s going to be great if you’re trying to position yourself in the SEO world and if you’re trying to go beyond that, you need to expand your breath beyond that so that you can figure out how you would fit in. Definitely how you fit into the world is critical. In terms of the term that people use a lot, hook, that you used, there are lot of different ways to look at how you can promote yourself. How are you unique? What are you better at than other people? What’s super dramatic or jaw-dropping about your story? Is there an overwhelming adversity that you’ve overcome? Is there something you have to say that’s controversial? Do you have something that would be shocking? Do you have something that could be super relevant to viewers in terms of take away? There are so many different ways that you can look at whatever you’re putting out into the world and I would recommend that you ask yourself all these questions, and then start to really go through what you have to offer in your book, in your product, in your cause, whatever it is that you’re trying to share, and figure out what is most promotable about you. Why a producer, why anybody in media should care about what you have to say.

Can you share any kind of horror story, examples of somebody who presented themselves really badly to you during the pre-interview process?

I wouldn’t call anything a horror story but I would say that one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen well meaning good people make is they confuse talking about their product with delivering something that could be useful to media. An example of that would be, “I have this great book coming out. It’s coming out on February and I’ve worked so hard on it. It’s about XYZ and are you interested on putting it on TV?” Okay, that would be a commercial, right? You’d be buying time to have a commercial made about your book. But if you go into writing a book and if you think about your book all along in terms of what could be useful and interesting and engaging and compelling for media, and you share that with the producer, I don’t know, it could be Six Ways to Lose Weight in 10 Days. I’m totally making that up. I’m thinking of New Year’s resolutions and people are always trying to lose weight in January because we’re a few weeks away from New Years. That’s actually useful to people. It doesn’t have to be that but that’s very different than saying, “I have the most amazing book on weight lost. Would you put me on TV?” Do you see where I’m coming from?

Absolutely. There’s a timely hook. Here are some big mistakes or here are some useful techniques or whatever for losing weight in conjunction with your New Year’s resolutions that’s really relevant to what’s going on in the mind of the viewer. Whereas if it’s all about me and, “Hey, I’ve got this book. It’s really great and I’m on a media tour.” You’re not present to what the producer needs, just to what you need.

Yeah. Do you know that awesome country song, “Let me talk about me, let me talk about I, let me talk about number one, oh my, oh my.”

That one, can you sing parts of it?

Everyone wants me to sing. I shouldn’t sing anywhere ever and I can’t remember who sings it. I’ll Google it when we finish the interview but I love the song, it’s actually on my iPhone but that’s exactly what you don’t want to be doing. You want to be thinking from the opposite perspective in terms of no matter who your audience is, whether it’s a producer on the other end of the phone and you’re trying to get a booking or you’re trying to get a booking on a stage or you’re in a job interview and you’re trying to get that job or you’re in a negotiation and maybe things are getting contentious. The more you turn things around and think about it from the other person’s perspective, so if it’s a producer, what would this producer care about? What do I typically see on the show? What do I think I really can contribute? Or in a negotiation, okay this isn’t going so well, what is really important to the person on the other end of the table? How can I give them something as much as I can that would be beneficial to them so that they might want to be able to meet me where I am and we can have a win-win? The more you think about that, the more likely you are to get what you want.

I love that. In fact, the way I think about it is there’s me and then there’s the person I’m talking with, engaged in conversation with, and between us is this wall of context. I need to climb that wall of context, get over to that person’s side of the wall and try to experience what life is like for them, what are they trying to solve, what are the problems they’re facing, what’s their situation that really helps me be of greater value to them and build a better relationship.

100%. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s how can you provide value? How can you be a solution? One of the best ways that is so undervalued is, or not even undervalued but just not thought about by so many people, is how can you sit back and listen to what the other person has to say? If you’re in person with them, watch that person, read their body language, try to figure out what’s going on below the surface. How can you gather information so that you really can give it to them? How can you close your mouth and really hear them so that when you open your mouth again, you’re delivering something that they will be so excited to receive.

Yeah. Going back to this hypothetical scenario, it’s an author who has this media tour that they’re going on. Do you even have to be an author to get on TV or does it really help your chances that you have a new book out or is it completely unnecessary, you don’t need to worry about having a book, you can totally get on TV without it.

I’ve gotten that question a lot. I don’t have a cut and dry answer to that. There are a lot of factors that come into play in terms of what’s the book about, who published the book, how big is the publisher, what kind of machine do you have behind you? In general, having a book is a good thing but I have put countless people on TV who didn’t have a book, didn’t have a product, didn’t have a website, were regular people but they were on TV for other reasons. Because they had an incredible story, because they experienced something that needed to be shared, because they really could help people. There are so many reasons to put someone on TV that are unrelated to having a book. Is a book a vehicle that can give you credibility? Absolutely. If the only reason why you want to go write a book is so that you could get media attention, I don’t think that’s a good reason to write a book because writing a book is really time consuming.

Yeah, and it doesn’t pay well usually.

Unless you’re a famous person that’s going to get a huge advance, which there are those people, or for some other reason you’re going to get a huge advance, it’s a very long process and usually the money in a book comes in how you leverage it in other ways and not from the book itself.

I know we’re running short on time. One last thing I wanted to do with you is to just have a mock pre-interview process with you for just a couple of minutes. Let’s say you’re calling me and I have no idea that you are calling me until I pick up the phone. Let’s role play.

Okay. Hi there. Is Stephan there? This is Rachel. I’m calling from XYZ Show.

This is Stephan. Hi, how can I help you?

Hi. How are you?

I’m doing great, thanks.

Great. Is this a good time for you?

Sure. Absolutely.

Awesome. Okay, well, I’m calling you because I read about your book on SEO and there’s been a lot of controversy about whether SEO is really even important anymore given all the changes with Google and I want to talk to you about that and get your thoughts on that–I’m totally making this up.

Well, I’d be happy to help. There have been a lot of issues with Google. With machine learning and artificial intelligence, it’s a lot harder for the SEO newbie to try and figure out what to focus on. It’s becoming more opaque and that question about is SEO still even relevant is pretty typical these days with all these advances.

If somebody isn’t someone who isn’t famous, is just getting started in business like a lot of our viewers are, what would you recommend? Should they focus on SEO or should they focus on something else? Again, I’m totally making this up.

Well that’s going to depend on who their market is that they’re trying to reach, whether that market is using Google a lot or if they’re on Facebook or if they’re just not online and maybe they’re watching TV. I think first is understanding the personas of who you’re trying to reach. What their hobbies are, how they interact with their computer and with the internet. And then if Google is a good venue for that persona to really understand the process that persona goes through to use Google, what kinds of searches are they typing in, when in the bicycle are they searching, etc.

Interesting. Imagine somebody who’s just starting out. They say, “Okay. I think my target customer client does use Google. How long would it take really focused on SEO for them to start to get rankings? What’s realistic?

Oh, that’s a great question. It’s kind of a question like how long is a piece of string? It completely depends on the keywords that you’re targeting, the market that you’re trying to reach, the competition who is vying for those same keywords, are they very sophisticated, do they have huge budgets, etc. Impossible to give a cut and dry answer to it but there are a lot of factors. Let’s stop there and critique me on how good of a job I did. Would I make the cut and get on your TV show?

Okay. There are a few interesting things that you said that are very similar to what I’ve been talking about media that came to mind right away. You said the first thing in figuring out whether you should focus on SEO is figuring out who your target audience is and what their behaviors are, which is almost the same things as what I’ve been saying in different ways over and over again throughout our interview.


The more you stop thinking about yourself and the more you start thinking about who it is that you’re trying to serve, whether trying to get on TV or the larger audience that you’re trying to impact, and then figuring out what media vehicles would best help you get there, the more successful you’re going to be. I just wanted to draw that comparison. I think I can’t drive that point home enough because I see people understandably get confused about it because we all tend to think about what we care about. Every time we do that, we have to step back and think okay, what is my target care about? In terms of the interview, I thought that you were great about being open and talking about your topic which is a very technical topic, SEO, in terms that anybody could understand. That’s often a challenge for people that are very technically minded which obviously you have that expertise, otherwise you never could have become such an important expert in the SEO field but being able to talk about it in a way that regular people can understand is super important. It’s something we don’t have time to get into on this in this interview but it’s critical because if you talk above people’s heads, people are going to tune you out because you’re making them feel like whatever it is you’re saying doesn’t apply to them. If I were critiquing, I would work more on energy because I know you, you are a super passionate guy, about everything you believe in. But sometimes your voice doesn’t reflect your passion and the more your voice could reflect your excitement, I believe you’re going to engage people more and more. I always tell people if you don’t sound like you’re excited about what you’re doing, nobody else is going to be excited. Obviously, you have a ton of experience but if there’s one thing that I would hone in on, it would be showing more excitement from the get go, from the moment you answer the phone to the moment you say, “I’m great. How are you?” Because all of that, people are thinking, “Oh, what’s his energy level?” Does that resonate? I’m not saying that to be harsh but you asked.

If you don’t sound like you’re excited about what you’re doing, nobody else is going to be excited.

No, it makes perfect sense. My understanding of TV, I’ve done like 11 TV appearances this year, and one thing I’ve learned from those TV appearances is that the television kind of dampens your energy level. You seem less energetic than you really are. If somebody experiences me in person, I seem more energetic than if they experience watching me on TV. I have to really amp up my energy level so that I just appear at least somewhat energetic on TV. I just have to go over the top. That’s really good feedback. I need to really dial into that in the pre-interview process.

Yeah, and the flip side of that is obviously, you don’t want to make it seem like you had so much sugar that there’s something wrong with you. It’s all in moderation. The more energy, the more passion, the more that shows in the pacing of the way someone speaks, in the way that sometimes their voice is higher and lower and they emphasize different words, all of that shows enthusiasm and energy. We all want to be around people that have amazing energy. We’re drawn to them like a magnet. People don’t often realize that you can judge that in a very short period of time. I can tell a lot about someone’s energy just by listening to their voicemail. If I call someone and their voicemail just sounds completely listless, not to say that I wouldn’t get on the phone with them but it tells me that they’re probably not going to be bringing a lot of energy to the table.

Yeah and I just interviewed Roger Love and I believe you know him for his speaks at experts.

Yeah, I love Roger.

Yeah. He goes into all the details of tonality and pitch and getting that energy in your voice. Such a great episode so listeners, be sure to check that one out. I know Rachel you have to go. How can people work with you? I guess you have an online course, your Rachel Hanfling’s Media Power Plan, and you do offer coaching as well. How would somebody work with you?

Thank you for asking. I would love that. If somebody is interested in online education, if somebody is interested in doing that in terms of getting media attention, figuring out how they can be successful with it, figuring out how they can leverage it, I have a course on my website that you just said, called Rachel Hanfling’s Media Power Plan. That course is really all my years producing TV. I sat down and I poured everything into it that I wished people knew about trying to get media attention and be successful with it because I saw over and over again how powerful that could be in changing people’s lives. That is on my website, rachelhanfling.com, and it’s completely a self-contained course. Another thing I spend a lot of my time on is individual coaching and I coach people in terms of how to get media attention, how to be successful with it, so if you’re going to have a media appearance. I also coach people on public speaking, job interviewing, negotiation, and basically anywhere where someone has to communicate in any way to try to get what they want. It really is a tremendous honor for me to help people do that in a way that they have integrity and they get results because I’m all about getting results for people.

Yes you are, and I experienced that first hand. You’ve got a great online training and you offer so much value for people and you’re such a genuine person.

Thank you.

So listeners, do check out Rachel Hanfling’s Media Power Plan and her coaching, go to rachelhanfling.com and we’ll catch you on the next episode of Marketing Speak. This is Stephan Spencer signing off.

Important Links:

Your Checklist of Actions to Take

☑ Start thinking about, planning, and preparing for media contact at the beginning of your venture. This
will help you create a more successful product with an audience in mind.

☑ Before an interview, figure out how you’re going to say what you want to say in as succinct a way as

☑ Work on becoming comfortable with your own messaging. It should be so much a part of you that you
can talk about it without sounding rehearsed or scripted.

☑ Practice sharing your messaging in different ways, in answers to different questions, and in different
contexts. This will help you naturally answer questions that you don’t expect.

☑ Start preparing for a pre-interview right away. This way, when someone gets in touch with you, you’ll be ready to show off the best of who you are.

☑ If you absolutely aren’t the right fit for a media opportunity, recommend someone who is a better fit to the producer. Relationship-building is more important than snatching every opportunity.

☑ Prepare five different pitches related to your topic, each designed for a different audience. At least one should be written for a general audience.

☑ When planning what to wear for your appearance, take several pictures of yourself from various angles, standing and seated.

☑ During an appearance, make yourself comfortable so you look less tense. At the same time, though,
lean forward rather than lounging backward

☑ Try to focus on providing value by listening to (and really hearing) the people you’re talking to. This way, you’ll be able to give them something they’re truly excited to receive.

About Rachel Hanfling

Rachel Hanfling is an Emmy nominated TV Producer, International Keynote Speaker and Media and Communications Consultant who is passionate about teaching people to authentically articulate a message that gets results.

Rachel has 20 years of proven success producing for some of the nation’s biggest names including Oprah Winfrey and Anderson Cooper. Whether it’s teaching at Harvard or privately training a client for Today or Shark Tank, Rachel empowers people from all walks of life to find and express their unique voice, resonate with an audience and deliver when it counts.

Media success requires exceptional communication skills and once people achieve that high level of mastery it benefits them everywhere. That’s why Rachel’s method also trains clients to succeed in public speaking, job interviewing, winning customers, treating patients, excelling online and anywhere they tell their story.

2 thoughts on “Bringing Your Best Self to Every Media Appearance with Rachel Hanfling

  1. What do I need to do to get on national tv shows? I believe I need to save someones’ life, as I keep contacting linkedin.com executive producers. Please read me up on linked – Gene Adesso.

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