We’ve all seen terrible interviews on popular news networks, social media, and soon to be created into memes. These interviews are like watching a train wreck, horrible, but you just can’t look away.
Maybe the CEO couldn’t talk about a basic industry trend, let emotions get the best of them, or frozen on camera. Despite the damage these incidents can do to a company’s (and personal) reputation, they are more frequent than they should be. Why? Because most spokespeople go into interviews without any media training.
If you’re reading this, don’t panic! I’m not saying schedule a training right now with every staff member. That would not be effective or proper time management. What you can do is be thoughtful about who in the company is an appropriate spokesperson (or persons), and how best to prepare them.
Let’s get right into it.
You shouldn’t be a media training expert: You’re a busy entrepreneur, owner of a Fortune 500, or head of a stock market listed company. Public relations, media training and general wordsmithery are probably not your highest priority (I don’t do numbers at all, so I can relate!). No problem. The first thing to understand is that speaking to the media is different than addressing board members or clients. If you are in a leadership position, it’s likely that, at some point, you will have a microphone or camera plonked in front of you where the expectation is to share your views or expertise. If you’re prepared with your talking points and have practiced delivering your message, this situation won’t be as nerve-wracking.
Who in your company should be media trained? Despite its name, media training is not actually for the media. It’s for you—or any of your company’s spokespeople who may need to communicate with the media, like your CEO, founders, business heads, director of your board or PR staff. Every executive and many other senior-level leaders may find themselves in a situation where they need to speak to the media.
While the entry level account executive does not need to sit in on the training, it is important when onboarding all staff that they are given company key messages, goals and mission so they are “in the know” at all times. You never know who they will run into when picking up their morning Starbucks.
Tip: Look at your org chart and who falls right beneath your CEO? Those leaders and their direct reports who are in the weeds are great options to consider for media training. While a CEO or owner knows all, these individuals can get down to the nitty gritty. They can walk the walk and talk the talk because they eat, sleep and breath (insert your industry topic and subtopics.)
Why is media training so important? I get it, your industry and/or specific department of your industry is your life. You know it like the back of your hand. But that sadly doesn’t mean you are skilled to talk about it in a comprehendible, digestible way for the Average Joe to understand. You know jargon and lingo the common folk are clueless about and it leaves us dumbfounded. Plus, you can talk about it nonstop to your co-workers, but maybe you clam up with public speaking or meeting a stranger.
That’s why doing an interview without media training is never advisable. You want everyone in your company to always share the same key messages and themes when talking with the media. The media event could be a positive event, like announcing a business expansion or new product line, but could also be a crisis event like a scandal, public safety issue or employee strike.
The organizational leaders talking to the media become the voice of the organization, and anyone who watches the news understands how treacherous it can be with “gotcha questions” and other traps. Whether it’s media relations training in general or more specific training around crisis, preparation is key.
You have no idea where to start. Like I said earlier, you can be an incredible company leader and it is okay to not know all the things. You’re human.
Here are some key steps:
- Lean into your resources – connect with your in-house PR team or friendly local PR agency to help you organize, plan and execute media training. Your trusty group of PR pros will help you gain confidence in public speaking, educate you on terms like “bridging” your answers, prep you with “in the hot seat” practice interview sessions, share what clothes not to wear during your interview and more. There are lots of tips and tricks and we have them!
- Before training, you want to have these imperative communication items ready –define your agenda, build out your communications goals and know your key messages. Need help with these items? This is something Maven can provide guidance on.
- Find a large chunk of time your senior staff can all be in-person together. While media training can be done over Zoom, in-person is super beneficial for group morale, practice and education. Make it a lunch and learn – who doesn’t love free food? Schedules can get crazy so put something on the books ASAP and plan out from there. Media training should happen at regular intervals to ensure success, so dabble with the idea of making it an annual meeting and re-occur it on your Outlook calendars now.
Okay, that was a lot! Just like you would before your TV, podcast or radio interview, take a deep breath. Media training doesn’t need to be scary or intimidating. You may walk in nervous, but the end goal is to have you walking out eager to tackle the next media opportunity with confidence and grace (bring it on, Anderson Cooper!). #InsertFlexEmoji
Are you ready to take the leap and help your team become mavens in your industry? I look forward to seeing you on screen rocking your next interview!
Posted In Media Relations