By Katherine Larkin-Wong • May 16, 2011•Careers
Last week, I was privileged to attend NewsCertified Exchange’s “Influencing the Headlines: Empowering Women in the Media” event at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in Silicon Valley. NewsCertified Exchange was founded by veteran CNN reporters and provides a database of experts who are media ready and willing to comment as experts. The goal of the luncheon panel was to bring together a panel of high powered women in the media who would offer their tips for becoming an expert reporters rely on, followed by a networking lunch where executives from a variety of areas (business, law and not-for-profits) could connect and share ideas.
The excitement in the room was palpable. Many women had attended NewsCertified’s morning media skills workshop where they walked through some key exercises to help them be more camera and sound-bite ready. The panel focused on the broader issue of how to be a successful expert for a media organization. Chris Boskin, the moderator, started the panel with some all-too-familiar statistics: “Women make up half of American workers and represent 60% of people with university degrees. Yet, only 24% of people quoted globally are women. Only 15% of posts to Wikipedia are made by women and only 18% of the op-eds written each year are by women.” The point of this panel, Chris said, was to start to change all of that.
The panel gave a variety of great tips for getting involved in media:
1. Get your Voice In the Door: Jillian Manus, President of Manus Media and Literacy Agency and Broad Strategy LLC, said that “You have to make a concerted effort to figure out what’s important to you and decide that you’re going to be who you want to be.” She quoted Sandra Day O’Connor as saying once, in response to a question about being a woman on a male-dominated court: “The one thing you have to do is get your foot in the door.” Jillian said she thought we needed to take it one step further, “You need to get your voice in the door.”
2. Personal Branding as a Step in the Process: The process of getting to know who you are and deciding who you want to be to the outside world came up a lot throughout the program. Several women endorsed the idea of personal branding. (I wrote recently on the topic of personal branding. You can check out that post here. Note that the post includes an opportunity for a free personal branding consultation from Puris Image.) Mary Lou Song, who currently oversees Ongo Inc’s product strategy, and has been involved in social media and online commerce for over ten years, said “Social media is a great way to promote your brand and what you stand for. Use the social media platforms to your advantage.” Although not everyone was a full fledged supporter of personal branding. Leah Garchick, a daily columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, cautioned women in the audience not to lose what makes you women through personal branding. She explained, “Women are multi-facted. What sets us apart is that we see beyond the brand and accept people for their weaknesses.”
3. Why is it so Hard for Women to get involved in Media? Laura Marquez, a freelance correspondent for ABC News, talked about the challenges women face in getting into media. “I think a lot of it is just that women are so darn busy. We often don’t have the chance to focus on a single thing. Because women still carry a lot of the burdens at home, we often feel like we can’t add one more thing to our plate. At work, we’re thinking about what has to happen at home as well and at home we’re still thinking about work. Adding media time to that can be tough.” Carolyn Tyler, anchor on San Francisco ABC7’s Sunday Morning News, offered another explanation, “Men are raised to compete. They’re self-promoters by nature. Women feel like they don’t have enough knowledge.” Carolyn offered an example: “Let’s say I call a source and ask them if they have expertise on a particular issue. A man who has some tangentially related experience will tell me yes, do a little bit of research, and be available to be on air. A woman will decline the interview because she doesn’t have a Ph.D in the issue. As women, we often do not trust our own intelligence.”
4. Online Publishing? It’s Really About Being PUBLISHED!: Mary Lou Song said social media is definitely something to consider as a way to get your voice out. Whether it’s a blog, online journal or magazine, or something else entirely. She says “the most important thing is to get published. Publications help to give you credibility as an expert.” Carolyn Taylor said she “trolls the blogs in the morning for potential stories.”
5. Qualifications to Get on the Air: Carolyn Tyler said the number one qualification to get on the air with her is to know how the business works. “It used to be that there was just a 6:00 news. Now there’s a 6:00 pm, 11:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 9:00 am, 11:00 am, 5:00 am news. We have to fill all of those newscasts with stories. So I need you today. The story can’t be rescheduled for tomorrow and so I can’t wait for you as a source until tomorrow. You have to understand what the reporter’s needs are. I have to go with the guy who asks me when I can get to him versus the woman who tells me she can fit me in tomorrow.” Laura Marquez, responding to the question, “How do you get noticed?” said “Once you start talking and making your points known, things will come together. You need to speak in sound bites though. We operate in a 30 second world and it’s only going to get shorter. I need you to make your point and make it crisp. Educate yourself a bit about those kinds of issues.” Jillian Manus jumped in and said, Linus Pauling, a client of hers, once said, “Every thought we have has an arc. The problem is, we never complete the arc. Now, if everyone completed the arc and could do it in the soundbite, then we’d change the world. So make sure you’re thinking about completing the arc.”
If you want to understand just how successful a workshop like this can be at changing your career, check out NCE’s profile of Brandi Moore. Brandi attended Influencing the Headlines in New York City and is now on the NCE website. Her opinions have recently been featured in Christian Science Monitor and Forbes. If you’re interested in becoming an expert for NCE, check out their “Becoming an Expert” page. If you’d like to see more about what was said at the conference, a number of people were tweeting. Check out #inth.
Note: If you are anything like me, you have never approached networking or self promotion in a systematic way. In fact, you may be terrified of it. Yet, our ability to network and self promote is essential for building a client base, building our own name, and building our careers. Each month I’m going to tackle one strategy for networking or self promotion in an effort to help all of us break the chains we’ve put around ourselves and begin building new links. If you have a topic you’d like covered, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.