With Earth Day coming up, I’m reminded of the old adage that the best time to plant a tree is 25 years ago, and the second-best time is right now. The same is true of media training — especially if you’re a founder or executive with a big media interview coming up.
When I worked for former Vice President Al Gore, he insisted on getting media trained every quarter. I was always amazed at this — why was one of the most heavily interviewed people on the planet so insistent on being constantly trained?
The answer, so obvious to me now, is that there’s simply no substitute for preparation. Regardless of the size or reach of the publication in question, every media outlet, journalist or influencer has the opportunity to help, enhance or hurt your brand. Whether you last media trained a few years ago or have never participated in a media training session, today’s a great day to get trained up and ready for that big interview.
Take the example of a former client we’ll call Cliff. Cliff was launching a new product and was a somewhat regular fixture within the business media landscape. When we asked him about media training, he politely declined, and proudly shared with us that he is one of the “best interviewees” on the planet.
Needless to say, Cliff should have listened to his PR team. Over the course of a 60-minute interview (one that was only scheduled for 30 minutes, mind you), Cliff interrupted the reporter no fewer than 10 times, and his responses to the reporter’s five questions ranged from seven to 13 minutes. At one point, Cliff even told the reporter he was using “retarded thinking.”
Imagine being the reporter on the other end of the line and having to listen to a 13-minute response after asking Cliff to “tell me about your company.” There are, of course, lots of examples of executives who are very adept at interviewing but can sometimes stub their toe (Kimbal Musk’s interview on Fox Business is a prime example of that) — and each one points to the value of media training and practice.
What is Media Training?
Quite simply, it’s preparing for that one big interview. The goal of media training is to assist and prepare you for your role in representing your company or organization. Through training and practice, anyone can learn how to predict questions, avoid common traps and focus on delivering key messages.
We hear a lot of reasons why people don’t want to do media training: “the reporter has a vendetta against me or my company,” “I’m too busy” or “they never get it right in the first place, so why try?”
But how about the reasons for media training? We regularly counsel our clients that effective media interviews can increase brand awareness, drive sales, attract investors or defuse crises. There are intangibles too, including the opportunity to establish a great rapport with a reporter and become a regular source for more stories.
When our clients are preparing for a big media interview, we typically run them through a one-hour media training workshop. We focus on tips for messaging that resonates, creating a relationship with the reporter and not talking too much (we recommend setting your phone’s timer to 30 seconds to prevent overtalking). We also prepare our clients for handling difficult or gotcha questions and focus on proven techniques that can deflect or defuse.
When we deliver media training to our clients, our only goal is to set our clients up for success by creating the conditions for a successful interview and a more positive relationship with the journalists covering your category. If you’d like to learn more about how media training can help your company, please let us know!