Media training is more than smoke, mirrors and robots

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Wading through the media sound bites that resonate across the airwaves, fill ours newspapers, and clog our in-boxes, it’s easy to think we are all just victims of the relentless public relations machine. As a media trainer, I am guilty of adding to the case but am here to argue the real damage is done when the talent is not trained at all.

Worthwhile some media training techniques maybe detectable to the lay person, in my experience a finely tuned response that is engaging and on the money will never detract away from the key message delivered. It takes a discipline and practice to ensure you make your point, back it up, wrap it up and simply shut up – all within the limited time given for that 10-second grab or one liner that makes a story memorable.

Most PR professionals will attest to sleepless nights worrying how their client will deliver the goods on a TV, radio or print interview. And it is not about your strategy or the client’s knowledge. The CEO or whoever is worthy of a journalist’s attention generally knows their company or the issues they face inside out. What they may struggle with is the delivery when the heat is on.

Our media coaching clients love what we do and even the most reluctant participants by the end of a training day fess up that media training has added value to their brand, their company, and their careers. It’s about the confidence to be interviewed by a reporter and walk away happy with the outcome no matter the questions posed.

As a former news journalist, I know that the most memorable, even award-winning reporting comes from interviewees who make a shock confession in an “off the record” chat or make a gaff that gets them on Youtube for all the wrong reasons. Forever.

‘Bland and safe’ one print journalist told me when asked what comes to mind when dealing with media trained talent.

“The general perception is that you are not always getting the real person or their real views – just a fabricated response that is designed to be bland and safe,” he stated.

It is fair to say that media training rarely registers on a journalist’s radar when they’re interviewing someone – although that is changing thanks to auto-pilot politicians and self-styled celebrities who are so obviously trained to repeat key messages ad-nauseum in a robotic fashion.

For media training to work best for all parties, the end game is that a journalist should walk away with a newsworthy story. The resulting interview should be smooth, the content kept varied and answers must be devoid of phrases that sound inauthentic. Appropriate tone of voice and convincing body language is also vital for visual mediums.

After some heated debate, a few journalist friends did admit that the best media training delivers something newsworthy with crisp quotes and tangible examples. This folks is what matters for your clients and audience.

Think of media training as bullet proofing your PR campaign, your board presentation, your professional life. In constant ebb and flow of the 24/7 news cycle, the stakes are higher than ever so why just “wing it”?

Blogging is the New Black

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Most business owners have heard by now how blogging can be good for their business. But like many, I have wondered how to really know if I am blogging the right way and to be honest, what is the fuss about? Time poorness aside, I have been concerned that I will somehow have nothing interesting enough to say or be unpopular in what I do write. I launched a personal ‘mummy blog’ when my son was born in 2009 but that even lost MY interest after a few weeks.

After watching others blog and blog well, I am no longer the business owner remaining anxious about diving into the world of blogging. If like me until now, you haven’t brought your business into the blogosphere yet, you just need to follow a few simple rules because I now have seen my clients and peers get really great success from marketing their skills and businesses via blogs. Success like new business leads or public speaking opportunities or even media interviews.

There are some ground rules so drum roll please

1.   You have to start somewhere

When you first start your blog, don’t worry if you have an audience of zero. Don’t check your website visits every day to see if anyone other than your mother is reading your posts. Just blog for you. Think of it as therapy. When you are starting out, you simply want to get into the habit of blogging. Get used thinking of ideas and writing about them. You want to get into a groove so that creating content for your blog becomes a natural part of your schedule.

You also want to get into a rhythm so that your eventual readers will get used to the idea that you will have fresh content on your blog on a regular basis. After all, it’s not a good look if potential customers visit your blog and find that your last post was in 2010.

2. Become an expert but keep it real

Once you get used to blogging, you need to start pointing people towards your blog posts. Feature your blog URL on your email signature, Tweet your followers when a new post is online, feature your posts on Facebook, and include links to your post in your newsletter if you have one. Importantly, make sure your blog can be easily navigated to from your website.

This is vital because your blog is essentially your mouthpiece. It’s a vehicle to showcase your expertise. Your main website acts as a relatively static ‘shopfront’, which contains key information about yourself or your products/services. However, your blog is what brings your business to life and positions you as a leader in your field. This is where you can educate readers about your industry, and write your opinions on trends and other issues that will be relevant to your prospects.

Your prospects aren’t mind readers so they simply don’t know how experienced you are in your field, unless you showcase this expertise in some way. Your blog is the ideal place to do this.

3.   Conversations are the key

Ideally, you want your blog to generate a conversation among readers. The more eager readers will comment on your blog or even ask a question and, if they do, you should reply. If they’ve taken the time to interact with you as a result of your post, do them the courtesy of responding.

Of course, if you get to the stage where there are hundreds of comments on your blog, this might not be practical. However, most small business blogs generally have a handful of comments and it’s easy to manage this kind of volume. Having said that, don’t fret if you have no comments. While it may seem like you’re not exactly winning hearts,the success of your blog is NOT a function of the volume of comments. Your prospects may simply not be the commenting type but if they read it, that is what you need.

At the end of the day, you need to determine whether you find blogging a worthwhile investment of your time. If your experience is like so many I know, your efforts will pay off in spades. But like most marketing initiatives, it’s a case of doing it frequently and doing it right if you want results.

The time is now.