Media coverage that includes your company name, your name, and maybe even your team or division name positions you as a subject matter expert and builds your reputation as an authority on your products and services. It adds to not only your personal credibility but also to that of your company brand.
Interviews are not advertising and cannot be tracked directly as ads, but they may result in sales leads. And because the coverage has been vetted and written by a professional journalist, it creates an implied third-party validation for your role and knowledge that can’t be matched by paid advertising.
However, if you have never been media-trained, you may miss opportunities to present your company’s key messages the way you want them to be perceived – or worse yet, you might say things that could be taken out of context to put you or your company in a bad light! Proper media training is the key to having coverage come out just how you want it.
Creating comfort in talking with media
Have you or your staff ever been interviewed by media before? Were you confident when doing it? We often recommend to clients that spokespeople would benefit from media training. Media training provides each spokesperson with the tools needed to effectively relay the company, product/service, or team story to a journalist, editor or analyst. You need to be able to convey your objectives clearly, because how well you present will promote the actions that you want your end-audience to take, such as purchase of products and/or services, buying stock, and recommending your services.
Your participation in media interviews plays an instrumental role in obtaining your communications goals—whether you are being interviewed via phone or Zoom, in your office, at a trade show, on a podcast, or via broadcast. Being prepared for the media parlays into being able to communicate effectively with third parties, such as clients and live audiences, too. The same principles of getting your key messages across apply. And after being properly media trained, your confidence and effectiveness as a communicator increase.
In a media interview, your job centers around helping the reporter to write or produce a good news story or feature article by providing him/her with pertinent information, including facts, figures, opinions, sound bites, and data that has news or educational value to readers or viewers. A professional journalist is an expert at gathering and disseminating interesting articles for their own particular readership or viewer audience. It’s important that you are able to understand their objectives and parameters, as this makes their jobs easier and can result in more air-time or print space for you and the company.
The reporter interviewing you may not be an expert on your company or your industry in general. You are the product/service and company expert, and it is your opportunity to convey the company story effectively. Your objective in a media interview is to provide the journalist with facts, your company messages, and a positive image of your company that will prompt him/her to write about your company in a positive way.
The components of media training
Prior to any media training, we send a brief questionnaire to every prospective participant. It helps us to have some background information on participants’ past media experience, if any, and what areas of expertise they may have. Participants are given the opportunity to ask questions throughout the training process.
There are four components to every media training we do:
- A presentation/discussion with PowerPoint that outlines key facts about journalists and how to speak with them. You will learn how the media think, what they look for in a good story, as well as tips for brevity, handling tough questions, non-verbal communications, and using flagging and bridging to deliver your key messages.
- A handbook/workbook that provides you with reinforcement for the information delivered in the lecture. It covers a general introduction to the role of media and news; insights on how media can be advantageous in supporting a company’s business model and role; and how to deliver a good interview. It also offers tips on non-verbal cues, how to dress for different types of interviews and ways to overcome any nervousness.
- Customized positioning and messaging for your company to assist you in leveraging marketing and company-approved talking points.
- Role play and critique – this is the fun part of media training! We prepare a couple of questions, based on the feedback we’ve received in the original questionnaires, which we then role play with the participants. We act as the journalists and the participants as the interviewees. The rest of the participants are the critics. We find that people are kind but honest, and often can help the interviewee see exactly what they did well and what they could work on. Each participant gets at least one turn in the hot seat. If everyone has the time, we can role play with each participant twice. Inevitably, they are better at it the second time around.
Depending on how many participants there are, media training can take 3-4 hours. It is performed either remotely via Zoom or in person, depending on the locations and schedules of the participants. We recommend having at least three, and no more than four, people in each training. This is a manageable size and promotes camaraderie and good feedback.
After you complete the media training you will have a good idea of the process, objectives and end product of a media interview. You will understand interview techniques, appropriate attire, and ways to effectively communicate with journalists. You will have anticipatory knowledge that settles nerves and enables you to focus on the objective – getting positive press for you, your team, the company, and its services.
You will also be included on a list of media-trained staff approved to represent your company in media interviews.
And perhaps best of all, you will gain the confidence you need to make sure that every interview is a good one!