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Media Training: Worth Every Penny

Microphone Microphone

By Sheldon Baker

Non-GMO Project

Most business leaders find media interviews the most intimidating part of their role. Thus, this one point alone emphasizes the need for effective media training.

I have lost count on how many times chief executive officers and senior executives have told me they do not feel they need media training. Sometimes it is because they are terrified of doing media interviews. Often it is the price tag associated with professional training. Research, as well as my experience working with clients, has shown that facing a television camera creates more anxiety than any other part of their job. And by learning how to take control and address media interviews, time and time again, it has been shown to build their confidence and shine when the camera’s red light comes on or the mic is hot.

By integrating specific details into your answers and exploiting the most influential elements of your voice for radio and podcast interviews and physical appearance for videos, you can convey a successful message within a powerful performance and have a feeling of acing the interview in addition to feeling great.

During my many years of PR work, my team and I have trained more than 50 health and wellness executives and professionals. I am confident they would all say it was a rewarding experience.  Over the past 18 months, the media world has seen many new changes. Just on the television side, virtual interviews have become more of the norm with fewer in-studio appearances being a major change. D.S. Simon Media recently announced findings from their media survey. The survey revealed:

  • 85 percent of local television news producers will continue to use Zoom for interviews with brand spokespeople, post-COVID.
  • 93 percent are open to interviewing brand spokespeople from their home, office, or on location, way more than want them to come to the station.
  • Stations will take interviews via Zoom, satellite, or sent as digital files.

Media training can help comprehend these changes and prepare you to deliver an interview that can capture the attention of the viewing and listening audience.

Here are some reasons to consider media training.

  • It’s now a virtual media world after all. Because of COVID-19, we have seen that with a webcam, interviewees can provide expert content from anywhere. It is anticipated this trend will continue. Nevertheless, delivering a virtual interview from an office or your dining room through Zoom presents a new set of challenges that require new training. I have found that even corporate spokespeople who have many years of experience being interviewed in-studio, should consider being trained on the subtleties of delivering an impactful remote interview. Virtual equipment including proper lighting and mics will help ensure you have the best audio and visual quality, so your message comes through loud and clear. Making you aware of all the little nuances that can distract from a professional-looking and sounding interview is also part of such training.
  • Like a good scout member, just be prepared. The recent past has taught us that what can go wrong may go wrong. Be it external, such as a health disaster, or internal around worker strikes or product contamination matters. It is all crisis-driven. By identifying a few corporate spokespeople and preparing them how to be on the front lines during a difficult time, will help them deliver a strong interview response. This is a key weapon to have your business arsenal. In a time of crisis, media can come at you with what I often refer to as “trick” or provocative questions. Media training helps prepare corporate staff to respond to questions confidently and provides the tools to offer a response without missing a beat.
  • That all-important key message. Your company’s key messages should serve as the foundation for all interviews, crisis, or non-crises. It will ensure that the resulting media coverage delivers consistent information that will drive results for your company. The development of key messages is one of the first steps of media training. Throughout the training process, spokespeople learn how to seamlessly weave the key messages into an interview no matter what questions a reporter asks. My media training team always includes people with a network media background who can share their real-life experiences. It is hard to beat the knowledge of an ABC-TV producer or NBC news anchor.
  • Show them you are a true expert. According to a recent Washington Post article, PR specialists now outnumber journalists more than 5 to 1, according to 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Bloomberg documents that reporters are feeling overwhelmed by pitches, many of which they do not consider newsworthy or relevant to their beats. This means they are stretched thin and covering more beats than ever before with less time and resources. When news breaks, they rely on thought leaders, experts, who can promptly provide commentary that will resonate with their audience. By selecting and training your spokespeople, your public relations team will have more opportunities to develop a larger story or participate in a trend piece within that current news cycle. And by showing your spokespeople can deliver a great interview, media will start coming to you when they need an expert rather than you always having to reach out to the community at large.
  • Training for online and social media. The evolution of online communications and social media has made it easier for companies to communicate with their target audiences. Companies, admittedly, have gotten better at telling their own stories through articles, blogs, videos, and other content published on their websites or through social media. Still, the most successful stories are those that are compelling, credible, and authentic, and told without marketing fluff or corporate jargon. Invariably, every time I have taken part in my client’s media training, they have also discovered new ways to portray and market their company.
  • Your bottom line. A company’s reputation is influenced by a variety of factors, including how the chief executive officer or president is perceived and their ability to communicate the organization’s values. With reputation having such a major impact on a company’s bottom line, there is just too much riding on how a senior leader might poorly come across in an interview to pass on media training. Indeed, professional media training is not cheap, but it is an investment well worth every penny.

I believe for executives to perform well in a high-stakes media setting, they must be able to assert themselves while remaining likable, deliver powerful and logical talking points while being concise, present themselves and their company with conviction while conveying empathy, and be flexible while staying on-message and in control. If you have or are considering media training, I invite you to reach out to me for more information.