MEDIA TRAINING: WHAT IS IT AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
If you’re starting out in your business or don’t really know what to do when the media comes calling, media training can help you obtain experience and teaches you how to interact with the media.
To acquire media coverage, you first must understand how the media works and what journalists are looking for in a story or source. Consulting with media experts can help arm you with the skills you need to get the best coverage.
What is media relations training?
Media training allows professionals to learn how to communicate with the media – in other words, media relations. The trainers are usually industry experts who understand the media inside and out. Media training teaches you the fundamentals of journalism combined with practical examples, to show you how to remain in control even in the toughest of interviews.
During a training session, you can usually expect tailored lessons on how to interact with a particular media platform with practice scenarios that mimic real life. This can include working with real camera training, mock interviews, mock press conferences and mock live crosses and even surprise, on-the-spot interviews. This will give you hands-on experience with how to talk to the media and how to deal with difficult or tough interviews.
Why is media training important?
Media training is important for any person who deals with the media, from those in the corporate sphere, through to those in not-for-profit, start-ups, small business and everything in between. It helps to clarify key messaging and to give you the skills to successfully take part in an interview, and use the media coverage for your advantage. Spokespeople can include CEOs, executives, experts, any go-to people for interviews or anyone who is called upon to make comment.
It’s not enough to rely on being an expert in your organisation, as when you’re interviewed, there are a number of situations that can occur. These may throw you off or stray you away from your key messages. So, media training can help teach you what to expect from the media and understand what they’re looking for. Journalists may purposefully trick you or ask difficult questions to get you to reveal something you weren’t planning to talk about.
Media training will give participants an insight into how to prepare for the different mediums of journalism – print, digital, radio and television. Each medium brings a different set of issues, for example, with television, what you look and sound like is very important.
It’s crucial that you start media training as soon as possible, as it only takes one bad interview to tarnish your reputation. So, it’s probably best for you begin your media training sooner rather than later, as when a journalist does want to cover your story, you’ll know what to do. If you’re properly trained, you’ll be more prepared to talk to the media and they’ll see you as a credible and reliable source who is media competent and savvy.
What can you expect out of media training?
Media training all in all helps you to better understand the media landscape and what makes news. It will help you to know what makes a great story and how to contact a journalist to get coverage. You will also gain the confidence to communicate with the media and take control of interviews.
For your next interview, you will have techniques and a set of tools that will help you in difficult situations and keep you on track with your key messages. More importantly, you will gain an understanding of how journalists talk, what lingo they use and how they understand stories.
At Adoni, we use broadcast cameras and working newsroom cameramen, to make the experience as real as possible. This is to help you feel comfortable in front of cameras when the real thing happens. By showing you and working through the footage, you can see what needs improving and how you come across on camera. Knowing how to communicate with journalists is all about practice. So, once you’ve completed media training, you need to make sure that you continue to perfect your interview media skills.
What to do when a journalist does come calling
When a journalist calls, it’s exciting and terrifying. They might be calling as a result of a media release you’ve issued, they could be after some expert comment from you or you could be in the firing line as a result of another story. While being contacted by news outlets is daunting, an interview is also a great opportunity to own your message and protect your organisation’s public image. Try and make the most of the opportunity and get prepared.
Stay calm and think like a journalist – try to predict what they may ask, get your messaging down pat and practice delivery before the interview. Rewinding back a few steps – long before the interview, here are some suggestions of what you should do when a journalist calls:
The five W’s
The old storytelling technique of who, what, when, where and why applies here. While a journo might ask you these questions, you can ask them back.
- Who is the journalist? Where are they calling from? Do they have an area of expertise? Also consider who the audience is.
- What do they want? What type of interview for what medium – is it a chat over the phone for print or an interview conducted in front of a camera?
- When is the deadline? When does the journalist want to do the interview and when will the story run?
- Where do they want to do the interview? At your office or home, in studio or somewhere else?
- Why is the media interested in the story and why is the journalist contacting you?
Never agree to an immediate interview. Always try to buy some time, so you can prepare what you want to say. Get the journalist’s contact details so you can get back in touch with them to confirm the interview.
Remember, journalists are incredibly time poor. To make it sound like you’re not fobbing them off and so they don’t chase you, give them a timeframe of when you’ll be back in touch – something like “I’ll just check my calendar/finish this meeting/etc and give you a call back within half an hour”. They just want to know quickly if you’ll do the interview and when.
Prepare and practise
Always prepare what you’re going to say and how you’re going to deliver your key messages before talking with a journalist. An easy tip is to write down the main messages you want your audience to know – these should only number about three or four. Keep it interesting and accurate.
Present and Interview
When you’re presenting or being interviewed, keep the three c’s in mind – be calm, concise and confident. Try to avoid any jargon as this might confuse your audience and your message will be lost. Aim to use relevant and easy-to-understand facts and statistics, as this will make you and your story appear more credible.
Even if you are prepared and have your key messages ready to go, journalists may still throw curveball questions at you in an aim to catch you off-guard – so be prepared for the unexpected.
Here are some of the methods that journalists may use to attempt to get you off message. If you recognise a question like the below being asked, be wary! Use a bridging technique to get back to your message and take control of the interview.
A journalist asks you to predict the future or give your opinion on a hypothetical. Instead of predicting the future, say “What I do know is (your message)”
Words in your mouth/ negatives
A journalist can use sensational language to describe a situation or ask a question that starts with a premise that is negative or incorrect, in the hope you’ll repeat it. “That behaviour is just shameful though, isn’t it?”
A series of questions asked in quick succession, usually over the top of you as you try to answer. These are designed so you don’t have time to think and they’re usually adopted in a hostile interview.
The trick is to not be rushed, take your time and stay on your message. Don’t raise your voice oir get into an argument – take a breath, wait until the journalist has stopped asking questions and then answer.
A reporter attempts to create controversy by trying to get you to comment on an adversary – don’t be drawn into temptation.
Remember, you have no control over the final story. So, try to improve your odds of how you or your organisation are presented, by remaining calm and on message.
Will you seek out media training?