A simple guide to media training

Every so often you witness one of those interviews.  A horribly uncomfortable exchange between journalist and spokesperson that causes you to twinge at the TV, squirm at your screen or wriggle at the radio and feel nothing but pity for the person suffering at the hands of their tormentor.

Nothing that is, apart from a huge sense of relief, that neither you, nor someone you represent, is receiving the grilling.  While brands have to successfully manage their reputation in more media than ever, nowhere can someone be as cruelly exposed as on live television… at the hands of Jeremy Paxman.

Just ask Chloe Smith, our current treasury minister who was last night at the receiving end of the sort of experience that will result in her running for the hills when a camera crosses her eye-line (via @guardian).  However one man’s poison is another man’s meat, and in this instance, the meat is the best example of why media training matters and preparation is crucial for any spokesperson.

The minister was on Newsnight to defend the government’s latest volte-face, this time a planned rise on fuel duty (start watching from 06:20).  What is clear less than a second in, is that she has been thrown the most heinous of hospital passes.  What would Malcolm Tucker say? Probably something riddled with too many expletives to be included here.

Media Training Tips

However, here are five initial thoughts that spring to mind for any brand, organisation or individual could benefit from before stepping in front of a camera:

  1. Don’t do the interview if you don’t know the facts, and certainly don’t be bullied into an interview if you don’t feel informed
  2. Prepare key messages with supporting proof-points and evidence, and make sure you stick to them
  3. Know your onions: consider potential questions and hazards, and have a clear response – think about peripheral issues that might get thrown into the interview
  4. Learn the Jedi mind-trick of bridging (secret: it isn’t really a Jedi mind-trick, but will help overcome the barrage of questions as seen here) – answer the question and then link your answer to a point you want to make before moving on
  5. Practice makes perfect (or at least plausible) – have a dry-run ahead of any interview with friends, loved ones or even better your trusty comms teams

Media interviews can and should be enjoyable opportunities for experts to share insight and knowledge with interested, objective professionals.  It’s only when the knowledge, insight and expertise isn’t there that things can go startlingly wrong.


Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Text100 UK‘s blog. 

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