Last week I did a media training refresher session. Just a couple of hours preparing an important executive for a series of interviews.
It was just him, me and his PR manager (& my radio recorder). We went through the issues that would be raised during the interviews, discussed what his organisation’s key messages ought to be for each one, did a print interview, and then listened back and reviewed it, analysing each answer and deciding which ones worked and which could be improved and how.
It was an extremely productive session – in a completely unthreatening environment.
But this executive had been extremely reluctant to go through with it. The night before he’d said to the PR manager: ‘do I have to do it?’. She had insisted and good on her for doing so!
After just 15 minutes, he was telling me how very useful it was.
This reluctance is something we find an awful lot. Key executives and spokespeople – the exact same people who are in the front line of talking to the media on behalf of their organisation – are almost always extremely loath to be media trained.
Why is that?
Are they so arrogant they think they don’t need any training?
Do they not realise the benefits?
Well sometimes that too!
Often, these are people very used to speaking in public and giving presentations. But it is not until you have been through the process of being interviewed by an experienced journalist that you realise that it’s not like giving a presentation. While there are similarities and our presentation
trainers give much of the same advice about body language and how to add interest to how you speak, it is absolutely not the same.
During an interview, a journalist is asking questions designed to draw their subject out – and perhaps reveal more than they wish. A media training session will point out the potential pitfalls – and show the trainees how to take control of interviews and get their message across.
Is it that people are reluctant to expose themselves?
Well, generally this is the reason.
During a media training course, you will have to give a series of mock interviews, which are generally recorded and played back. So all your glaring errors are revealed to the whole group in glorious technicolour (or stereo), and every answer is analysed and picked over in excruciating detail.
Put like that, it’s not a very attractive prospect is it?
No. But far better to make those errors in the safety of a training session than on national television, radio or print, in the company of experienced trainers whose sole purpose is to show you how to improve and give a better performance next time, how to put your organisation in the best
And in a situation where you can have another go, and another go, and another one, so that you really have a chance to improve your skills so that when you do give an interview you are totally confident that you’ll be able to give really effective and compelling answers, no matter what
question is asked.
We always aim to make our sessions as much fun as possible, and a positive experience where people are supportive of each other’s efforts and learn from each other’s successes (as well the odd mistake!).
And we generally find that by the end people have not only learned a lot, but they’ve really enjoyed themselves!