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Top tips on media training with our Clear specialist

We’ve all heard the excuses over the years, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years”, “ I pitch to clients all the time”, and while these statements are true, the majority of us still need to be trained to best handle being interviewed by the media. You may think media training is going to be uncomfortable and nerve-wracking, but trust us when we say it is invariably worth it - and is actually usually very enjoyable!

Fundamentally, the training will help to ensure you are able to put your main messages across to best effect and also that you don’t stumble when journalists throw the occasional ‘curveball’. Media interview training is a safe and fun environment in which you can develop and practise those interview communications skills.

Clear B2B’s Media Trainer, Keith Taylor (with 20+ years in the industry), has seen it all. Here he sets out some of the fundamentals of his approach to media interview training.

He begins by telling us what media training is: “put simply, it’s coaching an individual or a group of people on how to behave in an interview, be it radio, tv, press or social media. It covers behaviours (how you look and what you say), pitfalls to avoid and, more generally, how to become the most confident version of yourself”.

 

So, what does a media training session cover?

Keith’s media training is often scenario-based and centred around the three C’s; control, clarity and charisma.

  • Control: is about using different techniques, including body language and intonation of your voice, to help ensure that the audience remember what you want them to, regardless of the line of questioning from the journalist.
  • Clarity: is focussed on getting across your key messages in a way that is easily understood and unambiguous – succinct, but not brusque. I advocate the power of simple language and certainly avoiding use of jargon.
  • Charisma: is around personal presence and impact, again based on what you say and how you say it, as well as how you look. Much of this is about identifying and then honing each individual’s ‘storytelling’ style, increasing their inner confidence in front of a camera and/or journalist.

We’ll always speak to delegates in advance - about what they specifically want to focus on, reflecting their past experiences, as well as any future opportunities. It’s great when people open up about what they are most comfortable and least comfortable doing. Often that applies not just to media interviews, but to communications more generally.  We then plan our training workshops in a much more customised way.

Typically, sessions will cover:

  • Setting objectives. Being clear on the objectives of any media interview from the outset sounds so obvious, yet too often this stage is simply ‘glossed over’. Be 100 per cent clear on what you are trying to achieve through the interview…. Is it to clarify…to inform…to reassure…to excite?
  • Identifying and honing your key messages. Are they believable? Are they sufficiently different from competitors? Will they stand the test of time? Will they have strong impact? Beyond those, have we asked ourselves not just whether we are getting across compelling facts and figures to support our messaging, but are we focussed on creating the right overall impression, in other words, personality?
  • Learning how to appear authoritative and credible - for example by ensuring you can back up your answers with relevant, interesting examples, facts and figures.
  • Using memorable soundbites – have you phrases and expressions that will stand out and help people remember your main points?

Preparing for interviews - such as making sure you have anticipated the toughest questions you might get and how to answer them in a way that brings you back to your key messages. Ignoring a question should not be an option! You should also know some background on the journalist who is interviewing you and how they are likely to approach and run the interview?

The workshops give delegates practical advice on things like what to wear in a TV interview - including glasses, colours and even jewellery, whether to sit or stand and what to do in the seconds immediately before an interview starts. We also help people learn how to best handle media interviews not just when they have a positive story to talk about, but also if an organisation finds itself in a sensitive situation or, indeed, a full-scale crisis. In that situation, how you say things is almost as important as what you say.

 

How to handle journalists’ range of challenging questions?

Sometimes journalists come into interviews with a set agenda, but more often they will simply want to use different question types to elicit as much interesting content from an interview as they can. The challenge for the person being interviewed is to be clear, firm but not defensive and, above all, to convey key messages in a way that does not over-robotic or too corporate.  

Keith underlines that almost every journalist is trained to uncover the basics of a story - who, what, why, when and how. Every interviewee should always be ready to talk about these.  

Beyond that, he outlines just a few of the question types to be ready for:

  • The ‘just suppose’ question - when a  journalist may say something like “Okay well you’ve said there are no plans to make redundancies but what if there are, or just supposing...”. Getting you to speculate can be very dangerous and, thankfully, is relatively easily countered.
  • The repeated question - when a journalist asks the same question but using different words in an attempt to get you to answer a question in a particular way or give an inconsistent response.
  • The “whilst you're here” or ‘off the record’ question - this is usually asked at the end of an interview when you start to relax and may be ’letting your guard down’. It’s often personal and can be a clever way of getting get you to reveal something you hadn’t intended.

Finally, on being asked about your competitors, Keith has very concrete advice… “rarely should you talk directly about them and certainly not in a negative manner! Focus on your own organisation and story”.

So, there you have it. A taster of what media training is, why it’s important and what to expect.

If you or your business are interested in finding out more about our media training courses, please do contact us by emailing Rachel Arquati here.

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