The way a company presents itself to the media can make or break its reputation, which is why many organizations take advantage of media training with an agency partner or PR professional. Here’s what you can expect if a media training shows up on your calendar.
What is media training?
Media training is a specialized form of communications training for interacting with media. The goal of media training is to assist and prepare you for your role as a company spokesperson. You’ll learn how to predict questions, avoid common traps, and focus on delivering your key messages.
Customize for your needs
Before a media training session, it’s important to establish clear goals and objectives with your agency partner. They need to know why, when, where, and how the media interaction will take place. Will this be a one-time thing, or will you as the spokesperson regularly interact with the media? Are you presenting information or are you reacting to a situation or event?
If the training is in preparation for a live TV appearance on Good Morning America, it will be handled much differently than training for a quick, sit-down interview with a local reporter in the comfort of your office. Because these two interactions are so different, customization is key. A live TV appearance will require a more intense level of training due to added pressure and immediate message delivery. A sit-down interview with a print reporter provides more time to form meaningful, intentional answers.
Share your experience level
After establishing needs and expectations, your overall experience level as a spokesperson will be gauged. Share what kinds of interviews you’ve participated in. How many interviews have you done? What media channels were those interviews with? This will reveal a great starting point for the training. Depending on your experience, some of the media training will be more of a review and refresher for you and some will be new information. Some spokespeople need or like to start with the basic fundamentals. More experienced spokespersons may be able to skip ahead to a focus on preparing for a specific media interaction.
Determine your comfort level
Next up: your comfort level is evaluated. Most people have a low level of comfort in dealing with the media. Low comfort level = more practice. During this stage, there should be clear, established key messages for you to practice.
Here, public relations professionals serve an integral role, and these messages need to be at the forefront of your training. Your media training coach will provide counsel in making the message as clear and concise as possible. Then the work begins on weaving the key message(s) into all of your interview answers. When you feel more prepared, you also begin to feel more comfortable.
Practice, practice, practice
After establishing needs, experience, and comfort level, the practice can begin. In preparation for a major media interview, classroom learning and practice are combined for a more intense media training session. This may include thorough background research, breakdown of the media outlet’s audience, and rigorous practice with your coach to answer questions. In less formal media interactions, practicing and anticipating tough questions over the phone may be all that’s needed. In either process, video can be a vital tool, especially if you are a visual learner. Watching yourself answer questions on camera shows nonverbal cues and tendencies you may wish to avoid during the real interview.
Pro tip: No matter your experience level, you should practice answering any and all potential interview questions before the interview. Work on weaving key messages into every answer. This ensures you’re communicating exactly what you want to say. Think of this as a transaction rather than a conversation. The journalist or interviewer is looking for information. You need to deliver that information. But the window of time to deliver the information can be very small, underscoring the importance of clear messaging.
Interview methods and pro tips
One effective method for handling a tough question is “bridging.” This verbal technique helps you handle sensitive issues or questions you did not prepare for. Your media training agency partner can walk through this technique step by step, but here’s an overview.
First, the proposed question needs to be acknowledged. The reporter or interviewer wants to feel heard, so acknowledgment is often the most important part of bridging. This might look like, “You know, that’s a very good question…” Continue by stating a general response about what the company has done or is doing concerning the topic in question. Here comes the bridge, where you can use a statement such as, “but what I believe is important to discuss today is….” and dive back into those key messages. This method takes back control of the conversation and will prevent the interview from going “sideways.”
Media training is useful for all organizations. It is always in a company’s best interest to create a positive relationship with the media. Your agency partner wants to set you up for success by giving you more confidence in future media endeavors.
- Aim for authenticity, not perfection.
- You are always in control of what you say and how you say it.
- Media training is not a one-day seminar — it’s an ongoing process.
Looking to learn more about media training? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss tips for media interviews, or fill out the contact form below to get more information about our public relations capabilities.