How Media Training Can Amplify Your Story
My clients are no different from most tech companies; they want to be a part of broader media stories that help reach their audience, customers, investors, and others. Clients want coverage that highlights their products or services and showcases to their target markets why they offer a better approach. A good PR professional and strategist will help a company put the spotlight on its key advantages and will also leverage its relationships with the media to position the client’s executives so they can promote company news or position an executive as a thought leader in a broader trend story.
However, while a good PR practitioner can get a reporter’s interest in having a conversation with a client, it’s how well a client does in an interview that can make or break how and if the client gets coverage. Speaking with a journalist is different from addressing board members, colleagues, and clients. An interview is not a conversation but rather a transaction. The journalist wants information, and you want to provide specific messages in a succinct manner that gets across your and your company’s point of view.
Carefully crafted media training conducted by an experienced facilitator can provide clients the tools they need to navigate through the potential landmines of an interview, whether it is for print media or broadcast.
To start communicating effectively, understand that journalists are storytellers. Yes, some are reporting on hard news, but at the end of the day they are trying to communicate the relevance and significance of your news to a broader story that is unique and interesting. How can company spokespeople become great storytellers? Read and understand what the journalist you’ll be talking to writes about; every journalist and every media outlet is different. And keep in mind the publication’s audience; is it engineers dealing with a problem your product solves? Executives looking for something that will give them a competitive edge? Convey emotion, give examples and anecdotes, and provide quotable soundbites that will resonate with the reporter’s audience. Come across as both knowledgeable and personable. How you act during an interview is every bit as important as what you say.
Peaking to the media is a skill that must be developed and cultivated. The media landscape is continually changing, especially in the world of social media, where the story changes by the minute, so refresher sessions are highly recommended. Here are four communications basics that will prove valuable in establishing your image.
Grab Your Audience’s Attention
Media training can be a great way to learn how to use your body language and tone of voice in a way that captivates your listeners and makes them connect with you. Most interviews are done by phone. Tone of voice, being succinct in what and how you say something because more critical when you may only have 15-20 minutes to speak with the reporter and get their interest to not just write but consider you as a resource for future stories. When you do have that unique opportunity to meet a reporter face-to-face remember that your body language, eye contact and how posture can convey more than what you’re saying. Media coaching that includes a practice video session can show you how you respond differently to both positive and negative questions. Letting a coach teach you the basics of how to speak and carry yourself during interviews can help you get the attention you need for the message you want to share. After all, studies have shown that body language is considerably more important than what you say.
Convey Your Message Successfully
For every interview, you should prepare a shortlist of key messages you want to get across. Going through media training can help you do this effectively and makes it easier for you to get and retain your audience’s attention. Learning how to address their needs and desires in your key messages will give you an edge. A good trainer will also teach you how to package your messages and insert them into as many of your responses as possible. That way you repeat your main ideas and ensure that they stick in people’s minds.
Be Prepared for Difficult Questions
If your company is involved in some sort of controversy or problem, for example a network outage, you can expect to be asked some difficult questions. A seasoned PR professional should be able to help you anticipate those questions and provide some bullet points for answers. This will help you avoid taking long pauses while you think of an answer or blurting out something you later regret. Having an experienced PR team that can anticipate questions and provide suggested responses can help you avoid negative press – or even legal problems – down the road.
Provide Quotable Quotes
There’s hardly anything more upsetting than seeing a large feature piece about your company that includes a quote from you that doesn’t reflect any of your carefully prepared key messages. To avoid this problem, learn how to answer questions in a way that makes it easy for the media to take notes and formulate a quote that includes your main message. If you know how to answer media questions properly, you are more likely to be quoted correctly.
No matter how skilled you might be in your job, getting your message across to the media is a skill that can be developed with some preparation and practice.