12 Media Training Tips to Master the Art of the Interview

Last month, I offered some insight on crisis communications and the importance for organizations to have a plan in place to control and effectively respond to a crisis as quickly as possible. Seems only fitting that this month I discuss the value of media training since the two go hand-in-hand. Part of that plan is to select a primary spokesperson to represent the organization throughout the crisis process. As a PR guy, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of media training.

I know most executives dread the thought of running through practice sessions, but the bottom line is your company’s reputation is on the line every time you step in front of a camera. All it takes is one slip of the tongue to cast a dark shadow over an organization. That little media gaffe can go viral in the blink of the eye, so it’s imperative for executives to learn the proper techniques to communicate their message effectively.

After 15 years in the broadcasting industry, I like to think I can offer a little advice in this area. Preparation is the key to success! It’s a motto that served me well during my time in the newsroom. Developing sound bites that resonate with your target audience and answering tough questions takes practice. Staying on message is key, but you would be amazed how some executives think they can just wing it without any formal training. In those instances, I often reference the Albert Brooks sweating scene in Broadcast News. Now this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I have seen first-hand examples of executives who were not prepared and those golden on-air opportunities turned into media disasters (Not my clients of course!). The movie scene is 25-years-old and still make me laugh, but tanking in front of thousands of viewers is no laughing matter. So here’s a few media training tips to help you master the art of the interview and make a strong first impression.

  • Prepare talking notes on focus points you want to make
  • Anticipate tough questions
  • Practice answering questions before the interview
  • Know that you can always bridge back to your primary points
  • Understand that interviews could be cut short (It’s not a reflection on you – it could just be breaking news)
  • Keep your answers short and crisp (15-second sound bites are a good measure)
  • Listen to the interviewer’s questions
  • Be aware that a reporter may ask you the same question in a different way to get the response they’re looking for
  • Be enthusiastic, but be yourself
  • Hand gestures are OK – don’t be stiff
  • Smile and be friendly
  • Know that the microphone is always on — there is no such thing as “off the record” and the tape is usually rolling before the interview even starts

The better prepared you are for an interview, the more successful they will be. A well-designed media training plan is a great investment and a good PR agency can offer best practices in media training to help transform executives into effective spokespeople who will present your organization in the best possible light across all media platforms.

Ross Coyle can be reached at rcoyle@sterlingpr.com. Follow him on Twitter @rossjcoyle.

Image courtesy of Rick Brown Communications