The business that media coach Harriette Cole literally dreamed up while working as fashion director at Essence has as its clients a roster of R&B royalty like Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys and Erykah Badu, whom Cole has taught to show up in the best possible way in front of the press.
Cole calls Keys her best student because “she wanted it so bad.” That’s not the only criteria Cole cites as what makes for a promising client:
I’m working with people to modify their behavior or their communication. If you have a behavior that’s not serving you, it’s very tough to stop. For example, many people clutter their language with words like ‘Um,’ ‘like’ and ‘You know what I mean?’ Smart people with big jobs. It’s equal opportunity in our colloquial way of communicating. The best kind of client is somebody who’s willing to say, ‘OK, I see what you mean. Now what are the tools I can use to make the change?’
But before she was training others, Cole had to first train herself.
I learned how to have stage presence. My older sister was a broadcast reporter. I used to have a high voice and she taught me how to lower it. She said, ‘No one wants to listen to a squeaky voice’ like only a big sister can. Don’t go on TV until you’re ready. If you’re unprepared, you’re not going to be invited back…. Figure out what your voice is and what your focus is going to be. Practice putting yourself on camera and learn your eye levels, what to wear, how to present yourself.