When we think of the idea of media training, our minds might float to the boring, hostile, or downright puzzling interviews that sports giants are forced to give post-game or during training. Answers seldom go far from “Well, we just tried to give 110% and show what we can do.” Yawn.
And how many times have we cringed when we see elected officials deliver less than thought provoking answers to the simplest questions? Remember “I am the Decider!” ala Mr. Bush? And then there’s Britney– poor, misguided, woefully under-consulted Britney. One has to think that the only thing her publicist (does she have one?) has done for her lately is give her someone who says “No, really, you didn’t come off bad at all– if people only tried to understand you…” Uh huh.
So why wouldn’t someone with a powerful message to deliver, a groundbreaking product to promote, a fresh, new service to publicize simply not consider media training as part of their basic arsenal of communications tactics? For many, the answer is “I know my product/service/initiative inside and out. I can talk to anyone about about it. It’s a cakewalk.”
Well, I would beg to differ on that point. You see, you may know absolutely everything about what you’re trying to talk about, but some of your messages just may not resonate with a general audience. You need to strike a delicate balance between getting the information out there that’s most important to you, and developing messages and content that actually excite people.
Your goal should be to provide authentic, honest, entertaining and engaging content with dynamic and natural delivery. Who thought it would be so challenging to, well, just be yourself on camera or in a print interview? And if you’ve never done an interview, you may be shocked at the incredible variety of journalists out there! They may range from the thoroughly researched and professional, to the haggard and clueless last minute interviewer.
So how do you deal with the hard, unexpected questions which are either seriously uneducated jabs or more calculated attempts to trip you up? And how do you actually prepare for an interview? First and foremost, I recommend creating an internal (let me stress internal) document which outlines every possible question– from the rude and inappropriate, to the glaringly positive. This will lay the groundwork for developing your high-level messages. Work with your publicist and marketing person to develop strong answers. Practice answering these questions in as many mock interviews as your team can tolerate.
Most importantly, consider doing a proper media training session. Fortune 500 executives and spokespeople routinely undergo these trainings in order to stay on message from quarter to quarter. But now, even small to medium-sized businesses are finding that a good media training session not only allows them the opportunity to see themselves on camera and receive professional feedback, but the sessions also serve as a media relations bootcamp chock full of information that they can use for years to come.