We’ve all heard the phrase ‘fail to prepare, then prepare to fail’ and this couldn’t be more true when dealing with the media. You can have the most detailed communications strategy in the world, but without a genuine understanding of how the media works and what your key message is, it will fail at the first hurdle.
Whether you’re a complete novice or well versed in PR and media relations, knowing your business’ key messages and staying in control during an interview is challenging. As a nation, the British are well-known for playing down their positive attributes for fear of being seen as arrogant, but when it comes to interviews, this unassuming attitude can be misconceived as incompetence or uncertainty – not something you’d like repeated in the news!
Quite often we are unaware of the little turns of phrase that we use, which might give others a bad impression of ourselves. Using terms such as ‘it was a difficult year’, or ‘we’ve only recently started, so are still quite small’, can blur or distract from the positive message you are trying to convey. Media training helps businesses identify what those key messages are and learn the techniques to ensure that what gets printed aligns with what you want your audience to see.
For example, when being interviewed by a journalist, either for print or online, it is important to avoid relaxing into a conversational style. The journalist isn’t there to make friends; they want a story, and being too conversational means a greater risk of being misquoted. That’s not meant to scare you, or give you the impression that all journalists have an ulterior motive, but it’s important in interviews to not be afraid of stopping yourself once you have answered the question.
Answering in a clear and concise manner is far better than a rambling response. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake that we see. The interviewer asks an unassuming question, but a nervous interviewee continues to talk in an attempt to fill the dreaded ‘awkward silence’. Adopting the practice of answering the question directly puts the pressure back on the interviewer and retains control, ensuring they only have the material you want them to have.
Media training isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. A training session is only truly effective when it is highly tailored. It takes in-depth research into our business to understand how you work, who your audience is and how best to approach the messaging.
We use a tailored three-stage approach during our training sessions which covers the following topics:
- Developing your key messages.
- Identifying the facts that support your key messages. Remember, a journalist will be looking for you to be an expert in your field, so it’s important that you practice the facts alongside your key message.
- Anticipating the difficult questions. For this, we use the tried and tested ‘5 Ws and the H’ process: What, Why, How, Where, When and Who – in that order.
The research we conduct enables us to create numerous real-life practice interview questions, which makes it much more relatable and a more valuable training exercise. The whole aim is to build your confidence so that you are capable of facing the media with enthusiasm in an assured and informative manner.
Speaking to the media may seem daunting, but with the right training a difficult task can easily be transformed into an opportunity for you to let others know what your business is really about.