Famous tan raincoat: The Columbo catch


“Just one more thing.”

Steve Jobs was known for using this phrase to introduce his blockbuster products. “Oh, yeah, there is one more thing…” and then he would unveil the phone that would change everything.

But, surely, he got that from watching the 70s TV show, Columbo,  Those of a certain age recall fondly the rumpled Lt. Columbo turning around as he headed for the door and saying, “Oh, yeah, there was one more thing I wanted to ask you…”

The villain had already dropped the smarmy smirk as the meddlesome detective turned away. Then Columbo would thrust back with the question that pierced the black heart of the evil-doer.

I was reminded of the technique in preparing this month’s InsuranceNewsNet Magazine, which features the theme of mastering the media. Brad Phillips, the author of The Media Training Bible, had cautioned against becoming so relaxed that you wander off message and end up saying something you regret. In fact, he calls it the “seven-second wander,” a seemingly throw-away statement that becomes a juicy quote in the story.

It is not necessarily a “gotcha” kind of thing but something that detracts from what you wanted to say. Usually it comes toward the end of the interview when you are relaxed and maybe even joking around.

Here’s how to avoid that:

  • Don’t be boring: Say things worth quoting. If you play it safe during an interview and stick to the most innocuous blah-blah-blah monotone, well, of course the reporter is going to leap on an interesting non-scripted comment.
  • Be authentic: Deliver real information that is meaningful for the audience. Talk about what excites you about the subject. That will get the quotes. And if the subject doesn’t excite you, why are you talking about it with a reporter?
  • Don’t be a jerk: If you’re a smug, arrogant know-it-all, you are going to alienate the reporter. And, despite all the depictions in the movies, reporters are actually human.

That last point means that if the reporter doesn’t like you, then you are unlikely to look good in the article or program. It the reporter likes you, he or she will likely want to get your message out.

How do you do that? By being a helpful, genuine human being. Know your message well and help the reporter understand it. Look to the greater audience beyond the reporter. After all, the medium is the megaphone.

It turns out the secret to mastering media is mastering your message. The better you know your stuff, the better you’ll do. Show up as your authentic, energetic and helpful self and media will love you. More important, the audience will love you.



Steven A. Morelli is editor-in-chief for InsuranceNewsNet. He has more than 25 years of experience as a reporter and editor for newspapers, magazines and insurance periodicals. Connect with Steve →

  • Loren Moss

    This is a great piece. As a journalist and editor, I am tempted to send it to my interview subjects! I will share it with my LinkedIn network.

    • Steve Morelli

      Thanks, Loren! I never thought of sending this as a primer for interviewees. That’s a good idea!

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