The genie guide to media training
According to Warren Buffett, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.”
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, public relations is all about reputation. We’re in the business of either building or protecting it.
Here are some top tips from our media training programme on how you can manage the press more effectively:
Be prepared - If you’re approached for an interview with the press, the first thing to do is to try to understand what you'll be interviewed about. You can ask the journalist or producer what they’re writing about, what their angle is and where the story will be published.
Sometimes, and especially when live – the journalist will tell you the questions in advance. Journalists are not likely to deliberately make you look stupid. Good preparation will also help you to manage any nerves.
Understand your key messages - Part of your preparation will be having key messages to make sure you get your point across. These should not be sales messages, but conversational insight into what you’re trying to say. Make sure you rehearse these messages inside out. Newspaper interviews are often done over the phone, and you can have these messages in front of you as a guide if they make you feel comfortable. This is the same for radio. Equally important is knowing what you shouldn’t say!
Bring yourself – If somebody is looking to interview you about something, it’s you that they want to speak to. Nobody else will be a better version of you than yourself. On screen and on radio, you’ll come across better if you’re natural and relaxed. Key to this is practice. We can book a day with a media trainer or coach to rehearse scenarios so you feel more comfortable when you’re on the spot. If you don’t have a trainer, practice with your peers or family.
Media is also social - Gone are the days when we only had to worry about the traditional press. There’s a whole unregulated world out there and we need to be prepared to offer our view on social as well as traditional channels. Different messages will work for different networks.
Don’t forget to breathe – This is my favourite tip - and one that was given to me during a series of interviews for the launch of a national brand. If you’re on a telephone interview with a journalist, you can take the time to think before you answer. It doesn’t go straight into the newspaper and there won’t be a five-line space for a pause.
I often put ‘breathe’ notes in scripts I've written for people, to help them remember to pause and take the time to compose themselves. It can also serve as a reminder to keep your response brief – you will be prone to waffling and by using breath you can bring yourself back into the zone.
Clothes can confuse – I was once in the Green Room at the BBC with a former CEO who was wearing the busiest tie I had ever seen. It’s a very small fact, but the plainer your clothes the less likely they are to detract from what you’re saying. I now pack a spare for every interview that I do, just in case.
Lose your ego - My final, and possibly most controversial, point is that you might not always be the best person to speak. Just because you run a business doesn’t mean you should be speaking about it on the tv. There may be somebody in your team who carries the authority to deliver your high-level messages, and has the ability. Let go of your ego and give this responsibility to the best person for the job.
As a discipline, media training has never been more important than it is today where comments, videos and news stories can be shared globally within minutes. It is vital to create the positive impression that an organisation craves and it can help leaders to prevent negative publicity.
If you'd like to know more about how to build your brand’s reputation through media activity, or talk about media training drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07801 060 258.