The only thing we have to fear…

FDR

In their key matchup with the New York Giants in East Rutherford, NJ January 3rd, the Dallas Cowboys trailed by a point with seven minutes left in the game. The Giants had the ball just over midfield facing a third down and long situation. They completed a 10-yard pass (or so it seemed) that put them just close enough to attempt a 50-yard field goal. TV replays showed receiver Dante Pettis may have trapped the ball on the field, which would negate the catch and force the Giants instead to punt. Fox announcers Jack Buck, Troy Aikman and rules guru Mike Pereira all said it appeared the pass should have been ruled incomplete. However, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy decided not to challenge the decision, and kicker Graham Gano made the boot which gave the Giants a four-point lead, forcing Dallas to score a touchdown rather than a field goal to win, and they came up short.

McCarthy defended his decision after the game, saying he feared losing the challenge, which would have cost him a valuable timeout late in the contest when it might be desperately needed.

I’m not going to question the decision-making of an NFL coach with a Super Bowl win to his credit, but McCarthy’s action — or non action– can provide a vital lesson to anyone hoping to improve his or her media exposure.

I’ve seen over the years that many highly-qualified experts, especially those who are just dipping their toes into the world of media interviews, are fearful of being asked questions that are outside of their comfort zone. So instead of jumping into opportunities, they hesitate like Coach McCarthy, concerned their decision to be interviewed could put them in an uncomfortable situation, one they don’t feel their expertise covers.

But the important thing to remember is you’re being invited to the interview because you ARE an expert, and while you may not be completely conversant in everything you’re asked, your overall abilities carry credibility. You can always speak with at least some authority. Don’t fear.

Now, I’m not suggesting you fake your way through, but as long as you don’t “go off the rails” and start talking about things you DON’T know, you will be fine. Just answer the questions within the range of what you already are an expert in.

For example, if you’re an accountant and are asked about Washington politics, you can put the answer in the context of tax policy– what you might expect from Congress, how that could impact people’s taxes, etc. Sports figures are notoriously good at this– they can respond to most any question by relating it to a standout play, game or coach from their career. Military people are also often excellent guests because they’re able to relate personal experiences to current issues.

When media people see that you are able to handle all kinds of situations thrown at you, your value as a guest increases, and you will be in demand. And that’s where you want to be.