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Jim Blue

Jim Blue


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Today's guest is Drew Levinson, the Founder and President of Drew Levinson Media. Drew coaches corporate executives throughout the nation how to perform in the media spotlight. He draws on his experience as an accomplished national television news correspondent and public speaker to help guide and coach his clients, especially in crisis situations. Drew spent more than 25 years in front of the camera as a television news reporter, the last 13 as a news correspondent with CBS News.  Drew was on the Presidential campaign trail in 2000, 2004, and 2008 and has conducted numerous interviews with world and business leaders such as Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Shimon Peres and Richard Branson. Join Jim and Drew in a discussion on how technology is playing a role in his business and as a consultant to the web based company, News Certified Exchange.


0:01 S1

Welcome to the Keeping Technology Simple radio program. Jim Blue, your host, is a corporate executive, who takes the mystery out of Tech, and now, the president of BlueTutor.com, Jim Blue.

0:34 Jim Blue

And this is Jim Blue and this is the Keeping Technology Simple radio program. My goal is to keep technology simple. Today, we're going to talk about the media business and how the industry has changed significantly as a result of the internet. I'm very, very honor to have with me, Drew Levinson, the founder and president of Drew Levinson Media. Drew coaches corporate executives throughout the nation on how to perform in the media spotlight. He draws on his experience as an accomplished national news correspondent and public speaker to help guide and coach his clients, especially in crisis situations. Drew spent more than 25 years in front of the camera as a television news reporter, the last 13 as a news correspondent with CBS news. Drew was on the presidential campaign trails in 2000, 2004, 2008, and has conducted numerous interviews with world and business leaders such as President Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Shimon Peres, and Richard Branson. Welcome Drew. You and I had a slight -- a little bit of a conversation prior to the show on how many people out there really have problems speaking in front of crowds and in giving interviews, etc. Welcome aboard.

1:58 Andrew Levinson

Jim, it's great to be with you. Thanks for having me today. And you're right, it's amazing how many top-level executives out there, and we'll get into more of that a little later, but are not prepared to get in front of a television camera and speak about a subject that they should know very well.

2:16 Jim Blue

Yeah, it's really amazing and yeah I've been very, very fortunate in my career starting back when I was in the consumer products business for many years, where I had to give lots of lectures and speeches and I know that I was very reluctant to even put some of my staff on board. That really did not know how to hold an audience and I know that that's been the essence of what you've been doing now. I'd like to start a little bit about how the nature of journalism has changed with the advent of the internet. I know you've been very, very much involved with that. I know that the setting up of your business did address that question. But how has it really changed over the last few years?

2:58 Andrew Levinson

Well, journalism has changed dramatically because of the internet and because of the economy, news rooms, which used to have somewhere between -- large new rooms which had somewhere between 150 and 200 employees, they'd be reporters, producers, executive producers, editors, etc. have now been cut in half. News rooms are skeleton staffs compared to what they used to be and that makes it a lot more difficult to do the job, and at the same time, you're required to not only put together a story for either the television or for the newspaper, you're having to do it on the internet as well and that has brought about a big problem sourcing. No longer are reporters able to spend days on one story, vetting sources and making sure the story is correct. Sometimes, they have to put together a story and have it on the internet within 2 hours and I've always been a believer that that's a dangerous thing Jim to not be able to source your stories as you should properly. But at the same time, that's the nature of the bees. We've invented the internet and now we're using it to the best of our ability.

4:18 Jim Blue

My understanding is that you really needed at least a couple of different people to confirm a story before you could go live with it and I would suspect that with things like Twitter and the ability to just post automatically, that really becomes a problem in terms of having accuracy.

4:37 Andrew Levinson

It becomes a major problem and it's something that many journalists are looking at. But the genies have the bottle. There's really nothing you can do about that now Jim because news is 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The advent of cable and then additionally the advent of the internet is a wonderful thing because it gets news out to the audience very quickly, but at the same time, a lot of inaccuracies occur and so many times you watch a story at one moment, and a few hours later, you find out that's not exactly what happened. So, it takes a lot more work and also it takes something for the audience, the viewer, the reader must be aware of that and must themselves go on to the internet, look at different sources and try to determine what exactly is the truth here.

5:35 Jim Blue

But it's fascinating because in looking at your bio and I could have probably spent the entire show just reading your bio, it seems like you've spent a lot of time in some of the war zones, in some of the hotspots, some of the disasters that have happened before, and I think that with the internet, a lot of that stuff was even reported, some of it accurately, some of it not accurately before you even get on the scene.

5:58 Andrew Levinson

Well, that's right. Many times, we end up getting to a story after somebody has already either put it on their Twitter account, put it on their Facebook. The media has become interactive. If somebody wants to get some information out there quickly, they can get it out on YouTube, they can see this in journalism now, and nothing is wrong with that. The more people that are out there getting the news and putting it out there is a good thing. At the same time, these are not always professionals. Journalists are trained to do that. I'll give you an example of -- this is a hypothetical with something I used sometimes in my training sessions, but imagine you're on an airplane and this airplane has Wi-Fi on it and there is an incident on the airplane such as maybe a fight, something has happened, somebody shoots a video of that then they send it to the internet, on YouTube, and it is already out there on the internet before the plane even lands. So, there are some interesting things and some dangers that can happen with the internet.

7:08 Jim Blue

You know, it's amazing. I was at a wedding over the weekend up in Maine and someone sitting next to me right during the ceremony said, "Hey, Emmy Whitehouse is dead." You know, because they obviously put their phone on and saw it, that was on Twitter. I mean, it's amazing __7:22__ absolutely it. We're going to take a short break through, and when we come back, I want to talk about the motivation that you had in setting up your business and a little bit about the type of clients that you've been working with and a lot more about where you are now with the business. So, we'll be back in a moment.

7:46 Jim Blue

Have you recently left corporate life either by choice for the result of downsizing? If you have decided to start your own business, the chances are that you've already spoken with an attorney and accountant, and probably you have a plan in place to finance your new venture. However, have you given any thought with technology plan? Do you need a new computer? What other equipments do you need? As an entrepreneur, you no longer can call a support desk when something goes wrong. My name Jim Blue and I make technology understandable. My phone number is (917) 921-4518.

8:24 Jim Blue

We're back and our guest today is Drew Levinson, who spent many, many years at the national television, news correspondent, and is the founder and president of Drew Levinson Media. Drew tell our listeners a little bit about the motivation in setting up your business and how you are helping with this huge change that happened in the Drewery business in terms of getting people to a point where they feel comfortable in the media spotlight.

8:50 Andrew Levinson

Well, one of the things that I've decided when I was leaving television news, what is it that I wanted to do? What would make a good transition for me, and when you were introducing me, you talked about many of the people that I have interviewed, and I've interviewed some world leaders and interviewed top-level executives, and one of the things I found, I was surprised that a large number of people are ill-prepared to be interviewed, especially top-level executives, and what I felt was that they were doing a disservice to themselves and their companies coming off looking bad in an interview, and I knew as a reporter, I'd ask questions, and in most instances, I'd held the upper hand and the power. So, I wanted to try to even the playing field and I felt that there was a need out there for people to feel comfortable in front of the camera and the more I spoke to my contacts, people I knew, top-level executives, C-suite executives if you will, they felt there was a need that they wanted to look better in the media spotlight. So, I felt that I there were such a need, I would try to feel that niche, and with my background of knowing how the media works, knowing exactly how a reporter thinks, there are, I don't call them tricks, but I do call them tactics that reporters use to get the person they're interviewing to say something, they're able to direct them, and I wanted to help the people on the other side of the microphone figure out how they could come off looking better. So, I decided to make that move, and immediately, I figured out that I needed a website, I needed to use social media in the sense that mentioning what I was doing on Facebook.

10:45 Andrew Levinson

I have not gotten into Twitter myself, but I know the value of that, and I felt that by getting on the web and getting my name out there, I could get some exposure. At the same time Jim, I think there's more to it than just social media. I think, if you're going to start a business, you've got to use every resource available and that means old-fashion footwork, using your contacts, getting on the telephone, making calls, and also sending emails out. So, it is -- I have been doing all of that to create my business.

11:24 Jim Blue

I don't think there is any question about the fact that face-to-face contact is the most important thing. I think that -- and the big question that I've got for you is that there are a lot of people out there that don't really have the skills to give speeches, to give talks, etc. Are you approached by corporations at all in terms of working with their people, there's a lot of it, one on one?

11:48 Andrew Levinson

It's both. It's a combination. Every instance is unique. I may work with one top-level executive, I may work with five or six people at one time, and what we do is we pretty much figure out what is the need and then move from there. When I do this media training services or more so I like to call it media coaching, it's soup to nuts. We go from everything of interview preparation, understanding the topic, understanding the focus, knowing who your audience is, all the way to what do you wear on a television interview? Where do you look? Many people don't think that that's a major part of it, but it is, how you look on TV, how you act, where you're looking is an extremely important element of the whole media strategy, and also, when we're talking, you're talking about groups, yes. I prepare people for making speeches. You've made probably hundreds of speeches Jim as have I, but there are so many people who have not, and it is not difficult if you know what you're doing, but if you don't know what you're doing, to stand up in front of 500 people can be -- a lot of people aren't off that.

13:12 Jim Blue

Well, it's interesting, And the reason why I raised the question, when I was in corporate life, I've always felt comfortable when getting up and talking and speaking, but frequently, I had people working for me that I really didn't think came over well and they had very good messages, they were bright. I guess one of the main things, what's the best way to approach people that you might have working for you or even not working for you but that are working in the same company with you, making them aware that they do need the training. I mean, it's got to be very difficult to convince people that you really don't come over well. It's a little bit like when you give an interview, body language plays a major role in how you come off in an interview.

13:58 Andrew Levinson

You're right. Body language plays a major part and that's what I was talking about when I was saying where do you look, what clothing do you wear, and things such as that. It is difficult to tell a person that you don't come across well in an interview or you don't come across well during a speech and especially when you get top-level executives, CEOs. Let's face it. To get to a position like that, you have to have some sort of ego. So, a lot of people feel that, "Look at me, I can do this, this is not hard. I've got into where I am by using my talents." Well, you did get to where you are by using your talents, but one of your talents may not be getting in front of a television camera or getting in front of people and speaking, and in today's world, that is very, very important. I'll give you an example. I was working with some executives for B2B business, and basically, their boss has told them that they needed to get media training. I don't know how they approached them on that, but they did and the feeling was, "Why do I have to get any media training? I'm not going to be in front of the camera," and I said, "Well, your company could face the cameras if by chance, let's say, do you have chemicals in your company?" The answer was yes. "Could those chemicals explode?" Yes. "Could there be a plume of smoke that goes over a neighborhood with some toxic chemicals in that cloud?" Yes. "Well, then you're going to be on television because the media is going to be coming to you." So, you have to prepare in every instance for that. And going back to you first question, how do you tell somebody that? I think you tell it to them gently. It's like you're talking to a friend of yours and saying what you do is very good.

15:58 Andrew Levinson

But we need to make you better at this particular thing and if you explain it to them, usually their accepting of it.

16:08 Jim Blue

Well, it's pretty interesting because as you said that, I was thinking back to the fact that I put -- I do a blog every week or a couple of blogs a week and some of them I've done using video, and I remember I hired someone that sets these things up and they were very, very helpful, even though I've done a lot of public speaking, etc. to do video in a -- it's totally unique way, which is much different than getting up and giving a speech.

16:37 Jim Blue

And I think that you make a very important point because most of these -- most -- video gets more attention than the written word. I think we all know that and even people going on the internet now will click on video to see a new story before they'll even probably read it. So, as a result of that, I guess a lot of the CEOs have got be aware of the fact that if they really want to get their message across, they've got to do a lot of things on their own, come up with videos, etc., and your service has got to be very, very helpful in preparing them to do this, this type of thing.

16:37 Andrew Levinson

It is.

17:11 Andrew Levinson

Well, they've got to be prepared for it and also I believe coaching for any executive is -- coaching for anybody for that matter, it not only helps you on television. It helps you in life. It helps you interact with other people. It helps you learn to speak to somebody in a one-on-one fashion because that's what television is. Television is a very personal medium versus standing up and giving a speech to 500 people or 1000 people. Television is just you and the camera, and viewers, when they watch television, feel as if and their right that you are talking directly to them, and that is a talent that people can develop and video, learning how to perform on television extremely important, but also I tell people it's very important to understand what it is that you want to say, understand your message, and also be ready to go on and be coached before an incident happens, if we're talking about a crisis situation. I think one of the things that -- one of the best examples everybody points to is the CEO BP when the incident in Louisiana happened is that he said I want to get my life back. Well...

18:36 Jim Blue

That was a disaster.

18:37 Andrew Levinson

It was a disaster.

18:38 Jim Blue

I was talking about...

18:39 Andrew Levinson

Yeah. I don't know whether he was coached or not, but I would tend to think if he was, he was not well coached. And those are things you want to avoid and you can learn how to avoid those things and you can learn how to speak to the media, say what you want to say, answer the question, get your message across, and come off looking good.

19:02 Jim Blue

Well, I think that's very, very important and this is going to lead into a discussion about a company that you're consulting with, which is a very exciting project called News Certified Exchange. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we're going to talk about that and how it played a vital role in the role of journalism now so stay with us.

19:30 Jim Blue

Where -- are you with us Drew?

19:33 Andrew Levinson

I'm with you.

19:34 Jim Blue

Okay. I had a bit of a technical problem loading up the commercial, but again this is live radio. Before the break, we talked about the fact that Drew is involved with a new venture called the News Certified Exchange. Tell us a little bit about that Drew.

19:50 Andrew Levinson

News Certified Exchange is an exciting venture that was started by a group of veteran journalists, mostly former CNNers, and it providers the global news media with a searchable database of credible interview-ready experts and story ideas. The genesis of this comes from what we were talking about earlier Jim is that news rooms have changed dramatically over the years. When I first got into the business, if a story was happening, you had your roller decks full of sources that you wanted to go talk to. These days, journalists don't have that as much because the news rooms are a fraction of what they were. The journalists have not been in those places that long and therefore there is a need to talk to people about different subjects. I will give you an example. When the tsunami happened, if you watched television, you saw immediately that they had experts who could talk about tsunamis, who can talk about Japan, who can talk about earthquakes, and what News Certified Exchange does is help experts and journalists get together. An expert in retail banking wants to be on the site. A journalist needs to talk to somebody about ATMs, goes on the site, finds this person, calls them up, knows that this person is ready to go on television and ready to go on at a moment's notice or they wouldn't be on the site, and by doing that, this person gets on the air on say CNN or MSNBC or FOX or CBS, ABC, or NBC and it provides the news media with an expert and it also is a wonderful branding tool for the expert because when people see that person on television, they know, they know what they're talking about and in turn they may contact them.

21:52 Jim Blue

How do you find these people that are going to be on the News Certified Exchange? I know we have talked about their being in extensive training program. You really got to make sure these guys know what they're talking about.

22:03 Andrew Levinson

Well, most of the people that we seek are people that -- a lot of it is word of mouth, a lot of it is research, and we find people that we feel wouldn't -- are people who would be good at what they do. I will give you an example. I was down in Charlotte, North Carolina last week, doing a media training with an immigration attorney. He is a specialized immigration attorney. He is not the kind when you think of an immigration attorney of somebody dealing with the US-Mexican boarder or the United States-Canadian boarder. He helps top-level executives, sciences, athletes. One of his client is David and Victoria Beckham. Coming to the United States, whenever you go to a concert, whenever you see a sporting event and there is a foreign person performing, they have to get a visa to come into this country. So, he is highly specialized and he can talk about various subjects dealing with immigration. So, I happened to have found him. I contacted him. I said, "This is what we're doing. I think you would be a wonderful candidate for this." Once they decide that they want to do this, we go through a process where we help them put together their bio. We help them with their profile, but then we do an interview, an on-camera interview, to make sure that they are qualified and that's why this company, which I'm a strategist for, is called News Certified. News Certified has to certify you to basically vet you for journalist because if a journalist goes to News Certified Exchange, uses one of the experts, and the expert is not that good on television, there is good chance they may not come back. So, what News Certified is doing is guaranteeing that the media, whether it be crimp, whether it be radio, whether it be a blog, whether it be a podcast, whatever.

24:11 Andrew Levinson

If they're going to be interviewed, make sure they are certified and good, and what we have on there Jim, we have everything from CEOs to bloggers, cardiologists to attorneys, you name it, people who want to get on television, who feel that they have something to provide to the news media, and it is beneficial for both the media and beneficial to that expert, and I also want the add, the media whether they are again a network, a local television station, the New York Times, have access to that website and are able to go in there, find the person they need. It certainly makes life a lot faster, and if I can, I will give you one example of the way life used to be. I would be coming into the news room and Vice President Cheney was having a procedure done on his heart. My executive producer would say, "I need you to get a cardiologist, who can talk about this procedure." I in turn would call the PR folks at various hospitals, hoping to find a physician who could talk about this and that would take hours. Now, if -- I had News Certified Exchange back when I was reporting. I'd go on to the website, type a key word in cardiologist, and up would come a cardiologist. I'd call the cardiologist and he'd say, "Yes, I can be on TV in a half hour." So, that is the advantage of News Certified.

25:42 Jim Blue

That's a very, very important point because again, this is something that could not have been set up three or four years ago without the advent of the internet. Now, with handheld devices that we've got, which make us mobile, you're out on the field, you can really access who that important person is immediately.

26:00 Andrew Levinson

That's right. And Jim, it's getting more and more mobile because many of the experts now have cameras and can Skype and in fact they're getting to a point with technology that if one of the experts happens to be out somewhere and has a Smart phone with a camera on it, they can be interviewed while they're handheld on their Smart phone. So, it really is amazing what can be done.

26:27 Jim Blue

This is fabulous. We've got a couple of minutes left Drew. I would like to give an opportunity to tell our listeners how they could contact you, people that are interested in enhancing their public speaking skills, want to learn more about News Certified Exchange. What's the best way for our listeners to reach you?

26:46 Andrew Levinson

Two ways to reach me. You can reach me at Drew at Drewlevinsonmedia.com and Levinson is L-E-V-I-N-S-O-N. So, it's Drew at Drewlevinsonmedia.com. Also, if you're interested in News Certified, I highly recommend going to the website, it's called News Certified Exchange, but the website is newscertified.com, and if you want to get in touch with me and talk about it, I'd be more than happy too. My email on News Certified is drew.levinson@newscertified.com.

27:28 Jim Blue

And I think our listeners should know that if they do send you an email, you'd be more than happy to give them the link to get on there and some information in terms of how to get more information about what the whole process is all about. There's definitely been a big ship. There are fewer people that are actually watching network news that have ever before and I think that what's you're talking about with News Certified Exchange is very important and I don't want to lose side of what we spoke about before, and just to wrap up, I think the important thing is that video has become very, very important and that you need to hone your skills and even the most polished speakers could learn something by speaking to someone like Drew because although you may be used to giving big presentations and speeches using video and being on the internet and using YouTube, etc., is significantly different than just holding a conference like that. Drew, I want to thank you for being a guest. I think our listeners learned an awful lot.

28:30 Andrew Levinson

Well, thank you Jim. Wonderful being with you.

28:33 Jim Blue

And I would encourage people to get in touch with you and I really want to thank you for being a guest and taking the time.

28:39 Andrew Levinson

Thank you.

28:40 Jim Blue

Take care. This has been Jim Blue and you've been listening to the Keeping Technology Simple radio program. If you've enjoyed the program, tell your friends. We'll be here every week to help you understand the relevant technology issues of the day. To reach me after the show, my phone number is (917) 921-4518 or you can email me at jblue@bluetutor.com. If you go to my website, you can also sign up for my whitepaper, which we'll give you if you are looking to set up a business or how to become a good world warrior, some excellent tips on how that can be accomplished. Remember, when it comes to technology, there is nothing to fear as JFK said, but fear itself. We take the fear out of technology.