Media Training Matters
Harnessing the power of the media is easier said than done. With planning, preparation and practice, you can handle any situation and shape any conversation.
As a leader, you should build relationships with the relevant media. Make sure that they know that you are available to comment on stories in your industry or regarding your top issues. Send out an experts list periodically that includes the names, photos and contact information of experts within your organization and industry. This is an art, but it pays dividends in many ways. It also paves the way for more direct pitches of your own. The difference between a productive media release and a boring “press” release also is an art.
Once you have a reporter’s attention, don’t waste their time. Ask about their deadline before you say anything else. It will help you take control of the situation immediately. This can help you avoid the three most common mistakes.
- No preparation. You should have three key points that people need to know about the situation and about your organization, including your solution.
- No agenda. No matter what the reporter asks, bridge back to what you want people to know. Don’t just stand there and answer random questions; and
- No call to action. Explain where people can go for more information or to take action.
Ask the reporter if you can gather your thoughts and gather the most important facts. Promise to get right back to them. If you wait too long, they will call someone else for insight and a quote, so use your best judgement. In some cases, you might have to be ready on the spot to avoid losing the opportunity. After the interview, ask for their contact information and ask if you can send background information or specific detail that will help them develop a better story. Ask when the story will print or air. When you share it on social media, tag the reporter so that they know that you are promoting the story.
Since mainstream media can impact stakeholder relationships, it’s important to shape these conversations for maximum impact.
Generating positive news helps educate and influence stakeholders. It helps build your brand. It helps position you and your organization as leaders. It can help build awareness, understanding and support. The media can help you overcome objections and misunderstandings among stakeholders. It pays to put the news to work for you.
Of course, media training covers much more, but these basics can prevent loose commentary, while promoting key points. Most interviews are for print or online reporters, which means a telephone interview. Telephone interviews are the simplest to prepare and handle professionally. Personal interviews and television/video interviews require more planning and preparation.
The essence of media training is learning how to convey productive points in response to any question.
The key message (or messages) that we need to convey will depend on the situation, so it’s important that we learn how to deliver any message at any time. Part of the art is that we must know how to prioritize and refine messages based on each issue and opportunity. Other tips include:
Predict and Plan
- Key messages
- Fact sheets
Critical Success Factors
- Keep it simple;
- Always tell the truth;
- Relax—you’re the expert with interesting, important information;
- Attitude Check: I’m happy to be here; The audience includes stakeholders and observers; I have something important to say;
- Find a quiet place for the phone interview or personal interview;
- Don’t be late (to call, arrive or welcome in the reporter and camera person in the lobby);
- If the reporter comes to you, the entire office is part of the impression. Don’t let it be a distraction or a bad reflection on you. Outdoors is often a good alternative;
- Don’t let your guard down. This isn’t your friend, yet. Maybe someday;
- Help the reporter relax and focus. What do they need? Start taking charge in all aspects; and
- Assume that the reporter will verify your answers elsewhere, so be the authority. Be credible.
If the reporter is a print or online reporter, more information is good. If it’s a TV or radio reporter, think about short answers (sound bites). They want something short and sharp (3-5 seconds), but the editors will let you say more on important topics, so give them both a sound bite and a longer answer when possible. On follow-up questions, repeat your key message and elaborate slightly. For more information about media training, please contact us.