Media Training for Newbies and Refreshers for Seasoned Vets

Media training is key to making a good company spokesperson. It helps managers and high-level spokespeople communicate a company’s key messages to the press. It also teaches spokespeople how to steer clear of problematic or contentious questions. It is important to know what to say and what not to say and to deliver your key message points in a clear, succinct manner. Here are some tips for a winning interview:

Media Ground Rules

  1. There is no such thing as “off the record”! Anything you say can and will be used against you. So, don’t say anything you wouldn’t want to read about your company or that you wouldn’t want others to read or know about you, your company or product.
  2. Best way to tell reporters about your company or product is to offer the “Why?” rather than the “What?” Why is your company/product important? Don’t just repeat the company mission statement or “About Us”.
  3. Don’t say too much. Remain focused on critical points. Avoid providing a bunch of facts. An interview is not about downloading your knowledge; it’s about prioritizing your knowledge. Remain focused on critical points and give any facts context and meaning. Also, avoid going off topic and terms such as “Oh, by the way?” or “that reminds me”… Always try to stay on point.
  4. Speak to your audience, not to the reporter. The reporter isn’t buying your product or partnering with your company. His or her audience is also your audience so make sure you communicate the key messages of which you want your audience to be aware.

Phone Interview Essentials

  1. Have notes of they key points you want to deliver.
  2. Don’t sit at your desk where you will be easily distracted by emails, visitors, phone, etc.
  3. Use a headset so you can use your hands for gesturing. It allows you to be more conversational.
  4. Stand and smile through your interview. It also helps you to remain calm and conversational.
  5. Make sure you’re using a phone with good sound quality or a mobile phone with good coverage.
  6. Feel free to ask a reporter to repeat or clarify a question, repeat what you just said back to you, or ask if your answer made sense. If you don’t know the answer to something, or if you don’t feel comfortable answering a particular question, tell the reporter that you will get back to him/her.
  7. Avoid being misquoted! Don’t let silence bother you so you feel you need to keep talking through it. The reporter is probably taking notes. Stick to your point and let them come back with questions.

Live Interviews

  1. Body language: Bring your natural gestures in an interview. When sitting, keep your hands in your lap or on your knees. When standing, keep hands clasped in front of you. Never cross your arms or stand hugging yourself. Also avoid putting your hands in your pockets. Try not to fidget.
  1. Energy: keep it upbeat and positive
  2. Eye contact: maintain it
  3. Speak clearly and articulately. Avoid slang and using “uhhhs”, “ummmms”, “you know”, “like”, and “you know what I’m sayings”. (This also applies to phone interviews.)
  4. Don’t chew gum or eat during any interview.
  5. Finally: RELAX! You’re not on trial. A reporter is not there to harm you. He or she is there to satisfy their editors and their reading or viewing audience, which is also YOUR audience. If it’s a crisis communications situation, have a script and key talking points and stick to them. Practice and repeat them several times before the interview so you are fully prepared.

Damage Control

When talking to reporters in a crisis, maintain message consistency. A reporter will ask you the same question multiple times in multiple ways in an effort to confuse you, challenge you, maybe even frustrate you in an effort to get you to stray from your message, or maybe even to get you to lose your composure. Always stick to your message regardless of how many times a reporter asks the same question or how many ways they rephrase it.

For more crisis communications tips, check out our recent post on the topic:

Kelly ReevesComment