“Nailed it!” is what you want to hear when you place the cherry on top of a magnificent dessert or similar masterpiece. It’s also the goal of a media interview. You mix the ingredients and hope to attain the right results in that final crowning moment. However, if the interview suffers from a lack of media training and preparation, it can turn into a lopsided, partially-baked mess.
Nailing it sinks into failing it.
What is media training?
Media training is the preparation for giving a great interview, including messaging, conducting drills and roleplaying. An experienced public relations (PR) team can give you a sense of typical questions to expect in an interview and how to make the most of them. Your PR staff can also guide you through common pitfalls and ways to avoid problem spots that could crop up during an interview.
Media training often includes a review of company messaging, since reporters will often ask questions about the history of the organization, the team and the types of markets served. The PR pros will also run drills on common scenarios and ways to troubleshoot questions that could trip up spokespeople. With a team that has secured and listened to hundreds of press interviews, you can gain helpful insights and feedback on ways to nail the process.
How do I prepare for an interview?
During a media training session, the PR team can provide you with the tools and go-to responses for tricky situations. What do you do with an awkward silence? What about when you don’t know the answer to a question? Read on for 11 quick tips to take to your next interview:
Be honest and straightforward
An interview is a great way to develop a future working relationship with a reporter, and the key to establishing that trust is through honesty. If you talk around questions without actually answering them, the reporter will perceive you as an unreliable source of information.
Focus on two to three key points
People tend to remember the first and last thing that they hear, so say your main points in the first 10 seconds and reemphasize them in the last 10 seconds of the interview.
Keep your messages simple
Reporters can smell marketing language a mile away. Don’t use the interview as a radio ad. Instead, relay your information the way you would to your cousin. Avoid jargon or acronyms. Omit “industry leading,” “robust” and other types of buzzwords.
Use quotable language
Reporters often select one or two quotes that will summarize a story. Keep your key messages short and quotable where possible. Quick sound bites won’t carry the whole interview, but will be useful when you want to emphasize your key points.
Stop once you’ve made your point
Don’t be afraid of the pregnant pause. Reporters may remain silent after you’ve given a response, hoping you will elaborate further (and potentially say something you hadn’t intended). Then again, a reporter may simply be jotting down interview notes to capture what was said.
Take control of your story
As the source, you have the ability to tell your story and control the direction, but don’t steamroll the situation. Ask reporters what they want to cover and how long they have to speak; explain your points enthusiastically and offer to help in any way you can.
Remain poised and don’t act defensively
Defensive behavior can signal to a reporter sensitive material or angles to explore further, which is not the direction the interview should take. It can also cut an interview short if the reporter feels like they are dealing with a “difficult” source. Your confidence and poise will communicate your position effectively.
There is no such thing as “off the record”
If you don’t want to see something in print, don’t mention it. Even if a reporter suggests going “off the record” and promises not to cover what is said, you don’t need to agree if you feel uncomfortable.
Strategically avoid the “no comment” zone
“No comment” suggests you’re hiding something. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so, and offer to get the information to the reporter promptly, which the reporter will gladly accept. If you don’t want to answer a question, move the conversation another way.
Don’t ask to review the story prior to the publish date
Reporters may share a quote, data or statistics for you to review for accuracy. They rarely share the entire story, which is to maintain journalistic integrity and independence. Don’t ask.
Interviews work best as two-way conversations. Don’t cut off reporters. If they are asking you a question, let them finish. Listening is as important as talking, so be sure the reporter is absorbing your words.
Why is media training important?
Media training helps spokespeople stay on topic and meet or exceed the needs of the interviewer without steering off course. Reporters face tight deadlines, constantly breaking news and increasing pressures on their time, so a polished, succinct interview keeps conversation productive, makes the best of a rare opportunity and lays the foundation for a positive working relationship moving forward.
Many people fear public speaking or are uncomfortable bragging about themselves. Media training can help those hesitant to give interviews become more comfortable with the process and deliver facts about their organization and interesting activities in the works.
Some executives have the gift of the gab and can speak freely and easily. In those cases, media training helps focus their passion on key talking points and cultivating productive relationships with the reporters.
How much does media training cost?
Media training comes in various forms and flavors. A quick session can span a couple hours, comparable to other seminars or training sessions you may have attended in the past. Costs will increase if more executives need training or if the material is more complex. An expert PR team will guide spokespeople through realistic interview scenarios to role play responses and techniques for focusing the conversation.