In the Spotlight by Ed Shiller

In the Spotlight explains how to give media interviews that will enhance your credibility and that of the organization you represent.

About the book and its author
In the Spotlight: The Essential Guide to Giving Great Media Interviews evolved from my experience as a journalist and media trainer and from the two years I spent studying acting.

The cornerstone of good acting - that behavior is the crux of communications; more is communicated through behavior than through words - sparked the insight that has shaped my approach to media interviews.

As a media trainer, I found that many spokespersons disliked as manipulative and dishonest the standard practice of shoe-horning one or two memorized key messages into every answer.

And like most consumers of news, I am put off by politicians, corporate executives and other spokespersons who evasively avoid giving the information that reporters ask for and the public really wants to know.

What makes In the Spotlight so ground-breaking is the idea that everything the spokesperson says should address the reporter's question. Accordingly, the spokesperson gives the reporter any non-confidential information requested and may then amplify the answer with a brief statement - or "key point" - that puts that information into a meaningful context. The key to successful interviews is to anticipate the topics the reporter will raise and then to develop several key points for each topic.

This method will enable spokespersons to answer even the most aggressive questions with confidence, sincerity and truthfulness and thereby earn the trust of the public and of the media.

In the Spotlight provides step-by-step direction to prepare for and give media interviews. It explains the communications principles that underpin great interviews. And it shines with anecdotes and case histories drawn from my career as a journalist and as a communications strategist and media trainer.

Journalism is still very much a part of my DNA. I started out as a news clerk for the New York Times News Service, working my way up to editor of the service's international wire. Then, after a brief stint as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, I moved to Denmark. During the next five years, I wrote for the New York Times, the Sunday Times of London, Newsweek, Newsday, the Melbourne Herald and the San Francisco Chronicle. I also edited and broadcast the News in English for Radio Denmark and was the Copenhagen-based correspondent for Reuters News Agency. I came to Canada to work for the Toronto Star, initially as a reporter and later as assistant city editor, editorial writer and deputy editorial page editor.

Since leaving the Star to build a career in public relations, I have developed and implemented communications strategies and programs and acted as spokesperson for dozens of private- and public-sector organizations, and conducted in-house media training and public workshops for thousands of senior executives, spokespersons and communications professionals.

My first book, Managing the Media, is still widely read and has been used as a textbook. I have also written numerous training manuals and scores of magazine articles, am a frequent guest speaker at colleges and universities and have taught a variety of communications courses at Seneca College and the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.

In the Spotlight sells for $34.95 CAD and can be ordered online at

In the Spotlight - Chapter headings
· A New Approach
· Choosing the Right Spokesperson
· Setting Up the Interview
· 30 Essential Tips for Giving Great Interviews
· Fundamental Principles and Concepts of Communications
· Building Your Relationship With the Media
· Using the Critical Path to Prepare for the Interview
· The Seven Axioms for Effective Media Interviews

Excerpt from In the Spotlight

A new approach
So you want to give great media interviews "“ to emerge undaunted from the onslaught of aggressive media probing, to appear cool and confident under fire, to utter that one perfect phrase that will silence your critics and win widespread admiration and support, to leave the interview with the deeply satisfying feeling that you shone brightly under the intense glare of media scrutiny.

You are not alone and neither are the legions of media trainers dedicated to teaching you how. But media training is more art than science. There are no established credentials that media trainers need to acquire, no recognized university degrees or college certificates, no professional accreditation, no code of conduct or ethics. It is really a free for all, in which anyone can figuratively hang out a shingle and declare himself or herself to be a media trainer. There are guidelines for media trainers to follow, insofar as there are particular methodologies and techniques that have gained favor among the vast majority of trainers and are assumed to be valid by their trainees.

Starting from scratch
But I have come to reject these techniques as counter-productive and therefore decided to start from scratch to create a new approach. To do this, I drew upon my own life experiences, upon what I have learned from communicators on both sides of the journalist/publicist divide, upon how the public at large reacts to the people they see in the news who have followed traditional media training techniques, upon what I as a lay person could glean from the emerging science of psycholinguistics and even upon the two years I spent studying acting. And to gain full benefit from this book, I ask that you follow my example by putting aside everything you might have been taught or believe about preparing for and giving media interviews.

First set aside the idea of going into the interview with one or two "key messages" that you will interject into each answer regardless of how irrelevant that key message might be to the question. Forget using such techniques as "bridging," "segueing," "zooming," or whatever other name might be given to such staying-on-message manipulations. And discard the notion that you can control the interview by "steering" the reporter away from topics that might prove harmful to you and towards topics that might better enable you to project your "key messages."

This is not to imply that what you say in an interview might not lead the reporter to venture into areas other than those that he or she went into the interview expecting to cover. You may well say something in the answer to a question that would pique the interest of the reporter, who might then decide to explore this new territory. This is okay provided, first, that the statement raising the new topic was, in fact, appropriate to the question the reporter asked, and second, that you were aware when answering the question that your response might open up a new topic for the reporter to explore. The approach described and advocated in this book for preparing for and giving media interviews will enable you to meet the above two provisos.

Nonverbal trumps verbal communication
There is no doubt that the literal meaning of the words you use in written or oral communications will have an effect on the people you are trying to influence. But equally, if not more important are the meanings conveyed by your nonverbal communication.

How you say something when communicating orally "“ your tone of voice, inflection, eye movement, body language "“ or how you use grammar, syntax and vocabulary in both oral and written communications greatly affects your credibility, your likeability and, hence, your persuasiveness.
The full character of our written and oral communications is determined less by a conscious intellectual process than by a manifestation of attitudes and perceptions we hold, not only in our conscious mind, but also in the deep recesses of our unconscious mind.

How your pledges will be used
An initial run of 50 copies of In the Spotlight has just been printed. Some of these copies were sold during a prepublication promotion, with the remainder to be distributed to key media for review and to college and university instructors for possible use as a textbook.

Some of the initial design and printing costs have been offset by the pre-publication sales. But additional funds will be needed to cover the cost of a second and much larger print run and the launch later this year of In the Spotlight as an eBook.

Your pledges will also finance a marketing program that will entail, among other initiatives, Google ads and the creation of a social media campaign using primarily LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, email and YouTube.
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Ed Shiller 
Chicago, IL
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