How do you feel when a reporter contacts you to see if someone at your organization can do a media interview? All too often, an interview request can stir up feelings of reluctance and concern. You and your team may worry that your organization’s side of the story will be misrepresented or taken out of context, or that your spokesperson may get flustered, and forget all about key messages. Maybe you’re not even sure who should do the interview! If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
Thankfully, by participating in media training you and your team can overcome interview hesitation and learn skills that are necessary to turn every media request into an opportunity to confidently share your story or message. Media training offers insight into how the media works and what they need from you. It helps you shape your messages to suit different audiences, and gives you tips for every kind of interview.
Here are five key ways media training can benefit every member of your communications team:
1. Being prepared for proactive versus reactive opportunities
There are two types of opportunities when it comes to media interviews: proactive and reactive. Proactive opportunities are when you reach out to the media to share your story; maybe it’s a new product or service, a campaign or initiative. Media training teaches you ways to best engage with the media and pitch your ideas. Reactive opportunities are when the media comes to you. There can be great opportunity, and great risk in media interviews, and preparedness is key. By participating in media training, you learn how to respond to those requests and prepare for an interview.
2. Creating (and sticking to) a media protocol
Your organization gets a call from a reporter wanting an interview for a story; what happens next? Whether the story is positive or negative, if it involves your organization, you need to consider being part of it. Every media request is an opportunity tell your side and get your message out there, and without a functional media protocol, you may lose the chance to help shape the narrative and let others shape it for you, which is not always in your best interest.
3. Developing relationships with media
By gaining a good understanding of the media and an appreciation for how they work, you and your team can build important relationships with reporters. Once a newsroom knows that you will respond promptly to a request, understand what they need from you, and do a good interview, they may well come back to you for further interviews as a subject area expert or for opinion. They’re also more likely to respond when you send out a press release or pitch a story. It’s a win-win: The media finds a “good talker” and you create more opportunities to share your message or story.
4. Clarifying and communicating your key messages
It’s important to know your audience because who you are speaking to impacts what you say (and how you say it). Is this interview being used as part of a supper hour TV news program or is it for an industry-specific publication? Different media outlets have different audiences, and it's important to understand how they will interpret your messaging and what kind of language you should use. What do they know? What is important to them? Crafting your message to suit the audience should be a team effort, involving different members of your team with various areas of expertise. Media training can help teams identify audiences and determine how key messages should be presented.
5. Learning how to excel in different interview formats and mediums
There are so many ways in which members of the media conduct interviews these days; phone, TV, radio, Zoom, scrums, news conferences, the list goes on. Also, the medium through which a story is told impacts what (and how much) you can or should say. Each format and medium have their own quirks and media training can teach you specific things you can do to present yourself, your message, and your organization in a positive manner.
Dealing with the media is a team effort; everyone on your communications team plays a role in how your message is communicated to the public. It’s a common misconception that the only people in your organization who need media training are those who will actually be interviewed: your CEO, president, or director of communications. This is absolutely not the case. Any member of your team who has a hand in shaping your organization’s message or who may serve as a point of contact with members of the media should participate in media training.
NATIONAL’s media experts have decades of experience on both sides of the interview, and work with everyone from the most experienced communications veterans to those who have zero experience working with the media.
——— Clare Mackenzie is a former Senior Director, Public Affairs at NATIONAL Public Relations
——— Adam Langer is a former Director, Public Affairs at NATIONAL Public Relations