I remember the first time I met Lili Simon. She was an old woman, perhaps close to 80. Mrs. Simon (pronounced “Simone”) was about 5 feet tall, very slender, with a pale complexion and lovely grey hair. She came from Budapest in the late 1950’s and spoke with a heavy Hungarian accent. She was my piano teacher. Though I was in my 30’s when I started studying with her, I was single then, and not yet a mom of two, so I had entire evenings free to study and practice piano. That first time we met, this rather frail looking woman (though deceptively frail, I would learn) sat down at the grand piano in the sitting room of her home in Evanston, Illinois. And she played for me.
Up until that moment, I had never seen music inhabit a person. I listened and watched as her hands glided over the piano keys like they were home. I saw a hint of a smile find its way to her face, which seemed filled with serenity and pure presence. Over the years I studied with her, she never played for me again. There was too much sadness in her heart, she would say. Sometimes she would talk about what it was like in Hungary during the war, and how her first husband, an artist turned soldier, never returned. She received 3 official letters, she told me, one saying he was missing, another claiming he had been captured, and the last one, saying he had been killed in action. She never found out the truth. She never saw him again. Mrs. Simon told me that she smuggled his paintings to the U.S. after the war, and they now covered the walls of her home where she and her second husband, a well known Hungarian actor, had raised their son.
Why am I telling you all this? Because everyone has a story. And now you know Mrs. Simon’s, at least part of it, and by extension you know a little more about me. I could have given you a list of facts. Facts, are important, certainly. But facts don’t touch your heart.
If you’re someone seeking publicity for a book, product, or message, perhaps you’re already a storyteller. That’s a good thing. Because during media interviews, you need to be able to tell your story. Not just the story of what your book is about or what the product you invented can do for people. Sure you’ll be asked those questions. But when time allows, a good interviewer will often want to know the story behind the story. They may ask, “What made you decide to write your book?” Or “How did you stick with developing your product with so many obstacles?” Or perhaps, “How did you decide to dedicate your life to this message?”
It may not sound like it at first, but all of these are “why” questions.
“Why” questions get to the heart of the matter, and that’s where the story – YOUR story – is born.
Now, my media coaching clients have heard a lot about the importance of soundbites, and I give a great deal of one-on-one attention to help them craft the right ones for their book, brand, or message. But there is more to an interview than just soundbites. There are stories. They build connection with your audience, because we get to know people – and to trust them – because we know and relate to their stories. And having a genuine connection with the people you want to serve is crucial in order to build your brand and spread your message in media.
Thank you for reading my story about Mrs. Simon. She was an extraordinary person who shaped my life in ways I could never fully express to her. Mrs. Simon passed away in 2007. I will never forget her. By the way, this is a photo I took of my wonderful and rare piano teacher in the early ’90s. I always encourage my clients to use photos whenever possible to further build connection. But I won’t get into that now.
That’s a story for another day.