Media training is an incredibly powerful and valuable tool that can be used to support PR activity and ensure spokespeople feel confident and prepared to deal with media briefings and deliver key messages in an authentic and engaging way. We often support clients with media training, and often partner with Neil McNeil, from Hot Seat who is an expert media trainer. Neil has worked with thousands of clients and was previously a presenter on national radio and TV.
We asked him for his thoughts on media training and how it can support PR activity.
What is media training?
Media training is designed to help participants understand what the media require in a strong interviewee; the structure of a story; their rights in the interview process; how to prepare interesting, relevant, and memorable key messages, backed by crystal-clear supporting arguments and facts; and how to deal smoothly with difficult and challenging questions. In a crisis, it provides a template which helps spokespeople marshal their thoughts and prepare responses and statements, and gives them the confidence to deal with the media under considerable pressure.
Why is it important?
The reputation of an organisation or individual can be greatly magnified and enhanced by effective interview technique; equally, that reputation can be destroyed overnight by poor handling of interviews, which may remain visible on the internet for decades after. Media training is a valuable and cost-effective way to help ensure positive coverage and avoid the kind of reputational disaster which may end careers or bring down organisations.
How can media training help businesses and spokespeople?
Media training helps businesses and spokespeople by developing an understanding of what a journalist is seeking in an interview, and of the audience that they themselves are writing for or broadcasting to. It encourages the interviewee to speak as if directly to that audience in a personable and authentic manner, providing a complement to other means of communication such as press releases, written statements or website content. It helps businesses and spokespeople to look at the story they are trying to deliver from the point of view of the audience, encouraging very clear, straightforward and direct communication; and it helps to anticipate and prepare constructive responses to negative lines of questioning.
What is your number one piece of advice for anyone starting to do more media activity?
Consider the audience or audiences you are keen to reach. What do they know and understand about the topic or event in question? What concerns might they have? What do you want them to know and understand? How can you allay their concerns? What tone would it be best for you to adopt?
Often people aren’t sure if they need media training or not, what would you say are good indicators that it could be a useful thing to do?
Ask yourself two things: firstly, if you had to explain your story/event/product to someone who had never heard of you or your organisation, could you clearly and enthusiastically do so in three minutes? Secondly, if a major crisis occurred today and the media were at your door, could you deal with them calmly, clearly and professionally – and immediately? If you answer “no” to either question, media training might well be a good idea.
What are the top three things you can do to make your spokespeople feel as confident as possible when approaching a media opp?
- Prepare engaging, relevant, positive content that they are ready to pro-actively deliver
- Anticipate any difficult questions that may arise, and prepare a response
- Rehearse them