Media interviews are a great way to deliver your company’s story or to market a product to a broader audience that you would not otherwise reach through individual sales calls and time-consuming meetings. Yet many executives are nervous about saying “YES” to media interviews. And truth be told, most busy executives don’t want to dedicate three hours of precious time in a training session (we’re not offended – we hear it every day!). But ultimately, the most common reason for avoiding media interviews is the perception of risk. Media interviews feel different from regular conversations with clients or employees, leaving executives to feel as if they are in unfamiliar territory. Media training allows you to regain that sense of control by teaching you how to balance your corporate messaging with any realistic potential risks.
So the next time your corporate communications manager asks you to set aside a few hours for media training, keep these 5 points in mind:
- Preparation is critical and is the key to your success.
I’ve met plenty of executives who diligently prepare for client meetings, yet too often, they don’t realize that media interviews are very different from other client discussions they’ve had. Or, they believe that, because of their titles or tenure in their fields, they can handle the likes of CNBC or Bloomberg. Neither ignorance nor bravado is going to allow you to breeze through an interview. Media training allows the corporate communications team to help you. Ultimately, you will save time and have a more positive outcome when you strategically prepare with the expert guidance of your PR team.
- Test out the strength of your key messages.
Message points that look good on paper may not resonate when spoken aloud. Media training gives you and your PR team an opportunity to test the strength of your messages, time to practice pivoting away from sensitive or off-limit topics, and the opportunity to sense whether something you say could be taken out of context. You want to ensure that you have strong talking points that achieve your company’s goals.
- Build a bench.
Having multiple spokespeople media trained allows your company to respond quickly to time-sensitive media requests. What if your usual spokesperson is out sick or otherwise unavailable to speak with the media? What if you are the primary spokesperson, but want to highlight the strengths of your other team members? By conducting media training for all of your potential spokespeople, you can identify who is best suited for specific media interview formats and build your bench accordingly.
- Practice makes perfect.
Media interviews are unlike any other form of business communication, and it is a skill that is used infrequently by most executives. Speaking with the media is a skill that needs to be developed and honed over time. Even if you are a regular guest or are frequently called upon by The Wall Street Journal for a quote, it’s important to keep your skills sharp. Top athletes work with coaches, even once they’ve hit the ranks of the elite. As humans, we can be blind to our own shortcomings; having an honest and skilled coach will keep you moving forward. Practicing your media interview skills allows you to be the best spokesperson possible.
- Handle the unexpected with ease.
Even seasoned executives will encounter reporters who are determined to rattle their guests. You must be able to keep your composure and stay on message; media training can ensure that you don’t panic. You do not control the questions, but you can control the direction of the interview. The success or failure of media interviews is in your hands, and it is a wasted opportunity when you are not ready to guide the reporter toward your point of view.
Media training gives you the tools to navigate a media interview with ease. You’ll be able to proactively and strategically approach an interview with confidence and professionalism.