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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”?