Media Training 101 for B2B Businesses
What is media training?
Media training is a specialized form of communications training that helps media-facing individuals prepare for and execute interviews effectively. Media training sessions will teach you how to predict questions, avoid common traps, and focus on delivering your key messages, helping you to represent your company or organization in an engaging and professional manner.
When all eyes are on you, it’s easy to get tongue-tied or offer up a world salad. Media training ensures that every time you step into the spotlight, you know how to clearly communicate your message(s), showcase your expertise with confidence, and connect with your audience through storytelling.
Who should participate in media training?
Anyone who could potentially be interviewed by the media should participate in media training to protect the individual’s and the organization’s reputation. Key spokespeople should participate in a media training session prior to any potential interviews. When an interview is booked, the individual being interviewed should review their media training documents to refresh their knowledge.
What does media training look like?
A media training session is typically one hour; however, it can run upwards of an entire day. A session will include establishing your key messages, answering sample interview questions, and practicing mock interviews.
What are key messages?
Key messages are 10- to 15-second sound bytes that are memorable, colorful, and to the point. Since most people only retain 10% of the information they receive, they must be concise. Key messages should tell the story you want to communicate, using everyday language and avoiding jargon and acronyms. You should have no more than five key messages prepared and memorized for an interview. It’s important to use your key messages at every opportunity; you don’t necessarily have to answer the question.
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General Interview Tips
- Have your key messages memorized
- Never say anything “off-the-record” and be wary of providing “background” information
- Consider yourself “on-the-record” from the moment you enter the interview setting
- Never say “no comment”
- Take your time before answering questions. Pauses can be used as a tool to your advantage
- Unless it’s a live broadcast, if you aren’t happy with your answer, don’t finish it. A journalist can’t use half of a sentence in a story. Simply say, sorry about that, you’d like to start again
- Try to keep your answers to under 10 seconds so it makes a nice quote
- If you don’t know the answer, admit it. Promise to get back to the journalist later with the answer and have your publicist do so
- If a question is negative, do not repeat the negative, always answer with a positive
- Keep your cool, no matter what
- Maintain eye contact with the interviewer (not the camera!)
- Don’t answer in monosyllables like “yes” or “no”
- Don’t use trade speak or marketing jargon or get too technical
Interview Tips For Radio Interviews
- Radio can be a deceptive medium. You may think your voice has energy and vitality, but on the radio, it can sound flat.
- Remember to put twice as much energy into your voice as you would in a normal conversation. Radio outlets often conduct pre-interviews to make sure interviewees are lively enough.
- If doing a radio interview over the phone, keep your mouth about six inches away to avoid popping sounds caused by letters like “p”, because most telephone microphones are of poor quality.
- Don’t be disappointed if the interview took ages, but the resulting story is only about 45 seconds in length. Brevity rules radio. Remember, your quotes or sound bytes should be short – less than ten seconds – stick to those key messages!
Interview Tips For Print and Web Interviews
- Whether done in person or over the phone, these interviews are generally longer than radio or television interviews.
- Print and web reporters generally require far more detail than radio or TV reporters.
- Everything you say and do from the moment you say hello to the reporter may be used for “color” in the story.
- Don’t be alarmed by a tape recorder; it’s common and will ensure accuracy. If there is a serious error or misquote, consult your publicist.
Interview Tips for TV Interviews
- Focus on the interviewer, not the camera.
- Ignore camera operators and other technicians as they move about.
- Avoid “ums” and “ahs”.
- Incorporate the question into your answer.
- Use natural hand movements to emphasize your answers.
- Avoid clasping hands tightly, gripping the sides of chairs, swiveling in your chair, or holding objects.
- Sit straight (straighter than you think you should). Leaning slightly forward in your chair gives the impression that you’re alert and in control.
- Wait for a cue from the reporter signaling that the interview is over before changing your demeanor.
Dressing For TV Interviews
- Wear medium tones – avoid pure white, black, and red shirts.
- Blue looks great on camera.
- Avoid patterns that have stripes, plaids, and checks as they look distorted and distracting on TV.
- Watch for bulges caused by cell phones, wallets, keys, etc.
Whether you’re about to do your first interview or one hundredth, media training sessions aid in the success of how you prepare and execute for an interview. Enjoy the process and make the most of your opportunity. The media loves a great interview and will always come back for more!