In these not-so-business-as-usual days, businesses and business owners are pivoting. Conducting more meetings, and even coffee breaks and staff happy hours, by Zoom. Creating new, low-contact, or virtual services. Adjusting office spaces or adapting to work-from-home life.
I'm also seeing entrepreneurs take on learning new things. How to nail virtual presentations. How to use online tools to manage virtual teams. How to customize their Zoom experience. (I'm pretty proud of myself for figuring out how to do a custom Zoom background.) How to elevate their LinkedIn profiles. How to communicate their messages to the media.
It's that last one I want to tackle here: media training. It's a big undertaking, and something more clients and prospects have asked me about recently. Whatever the reason, timing, or motivation, it's always a good idea to learn how to deliver your message to reporters. But, remember, you're not talking to just reporters. When you appear in news and feature stories, you're actually communicating with customers, prospective customers, employees, potential partners, investors, and other stakeholders.
If you are thinking of investing time and money in media training, here are four things you should expect to learn or get from the experience.
1. You should prepare for brutal honesty.
Don't waste your time or money on media training that promises to be anything less than brutally honest. This is often why companies hire outside media trainers; their internal teams are too soft, too easy.
Your media trainer should point out all of the areas you need to improve on -- for taking too long to answer questions to spouting off long-winded, convoluted answers that don't get to the point. Maybe you say "um" and "like" a lot or use a bunch of jargon. Maybe you missed an opportunity to communicate a key company message. Maybe you didn't have proof points to back up your answers. Maybe you don't seem likable or approachable. Your media trainer should cover it all and give you the tools you need to improve and succeed in your media interviews.
2. You should learn how to craft a message.
Your media trainer should coach you on how to craft an effective message. The anatomy of an effective message is:
• It's succinct.
• It shows a clear benefit to the audience -- customers, for example.
• It's supported by proof points.
• It's memorable.
Remember, it's often less about who you are or your company per se and more about what you and your company do to solve problems, provide solutions, or fill a void and thus make people's work, business, or lives better.
3. You should get some tools and tricks.
One of my favorite media training tools is called bridging. Basically, it means not accepting the question asked necessarily, but rather deftly shifting the conversation to your area of expertise or key message. This is especially effective in broadcast interviews, when what's most important is keeping the conversation moving.
I always supply a cheat sheet of different interview tactics, including bridging, at the end of media training.
4. You should practice delivering your message.
Your media training should include a fair amount of practice. I like to conduct mock media interviews with my clients. To prepare for phone interviews with print reporters, I leave the room and call my client, pretending to be a reporter working on a certain story. I then return to give feedback on how they did.
To prepare for broadcast interviews, we record interviews -- in a studio, when available. After each mock broadcast interview, we watch the playback, and I offer critiques. One thing we focus on here is time -- how long the answers take -- because on TV there's not a lot of time to get the right words out.
The practice, of course, extends beyond the media training. Your PR pros should always counsel you before and after media interviews. But you can be practicing on your own, too. I always advise clients to practice answers to questions, both aloud and in their heads, whenever they can -- on their runs, over their morning coffee, on the drive to work.
Practice makes anything almost perfect, and that includes giving interviews to reporters and delivering your message and client benefit.