Media training – The top 5 things that the best media trainers teach you
You’ve got a great story and you’re about to get your five minutes of fame on the TV or, the radio or, perhaps even on an online podcast. You need to answer you’re interviewers questions but most importantly communicate what you are there to plug, don’t your waste your opportunity and don’t blow it by sounding wooden.
We’ve spoken to two of the best media trainers in the UK to produce a five point guide to media training. Paul Curran, is a former BBC broadcast journalist and Founder of the Content Distillery. Sharon Thomas is a presenter and reporter on ITV news and has also worked for the BBC and Sky News. She is the MD of media training company Master the Media.
Expert Media trainer Paul Curran says;
- Anyone is a journalist
Something that I think has changed in media training in recent years, and which I make a point of telling people is that, "anyone is a journalist." With so many people writing blogs more and more people are writing up a chat they had with someone in business as an article. For example imagine you are at a trade show and you bump into someone you've had a chat with in the past. With this familiarity your guard is down and you stray from the company line and key messages. Nothing serious but we all like to make our conversations a bit more interesting, juicy, for the listener don't we?!
Your contact writes up the blog, it is read by a trade journalist who then builds an article around your slip/admission. If you're lucky it stops there - if not, and depending on the level of your indiscretion, it gets picked up by a journalist on a national paper and before you know it you have a mini crisis to contend with. It happens - we media trained a senior manager at an engineering firm who had passed on a bit of gossip at a dinner only to see it printed in the papers a few days later. So I now urge everyone to be aware of the pitfalls of passing on office intel or gossip, it can come back to bite you.
- Do your homework
There's no excuse these days for not doing your homework on the person who is interviewing you. For instance if you have a press interview check out the journalist's articles. It will tell you if they have a bias against your industry etc. Are they generally fair? Do they have any obsessions, if so can you use that to your advantage?
If it's a TV or Radio interview listen to a couple of their previous interviews. Will they allow you to make your point or are they likely to interrupt? I coached a head teacher after she had given an interview on a local radio breakfast show. She had a really rough ride and although she did really well it was obvious to us listening back that this was his style.
- Be nice
This will sound obvious but treating journalists as an equal and not something that you've scraped off your shoe will pay dividends. Recognise that journalists are doing their job and although a few are nasty, the majority are decent professionals. As a former TV reporter I'll admit I gave an easier time to someone who was apparently open and friendly. Someone who plays on this is Boris Johnson. You can tell he treats the interview as a bit of a game and he goes out of his way to disarm his opponent by being friendly - he never loses his rag with his interviewer. As a result, I'm convinced he gets an easier time than other politicians - most of the time! he occasionally gets caught out - check out his interview with Eddie Mair. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAxA-9D4X3o - But even here he keeps his humour going until the end.
Sharon Thomas, broadcast journalist and media training consultant, says;
- Golden opportunity
What a golden opportunity! It’s free PR. A way to get your message across within the gravitas of a news programme. So you stay positive throughout. There’s no scope for nerves – but do remember the following checklist:
- Interviews are about reaching clarity
- You need to plan and prepare for them
- Be clear about what you are saying and not saying
- Know your subject sufficiently
- Make your point in the first answer and don’t be led
- Negotiate anything you need to
- Manage your stress
- Talk positively
- Talk about your brand
- Good spokespeople are made not born!
If you don’t feel confident or have had a bad experience then you should refresh your approach, seek outside counsel and train yourself to be ready when your opportunity arrives.
The best media training companies in the UK right now:
Master the Media – Led by ITV’s Sharon Thomas you are getting the experience of someone who works in the fast pace of the media today and will put you through your paces. She often holds courses in the ITN building which adds to that sense of urgency in putting clients through their paces.
The Content Distillery – Led by Paul Curran who offers training there’s also a focus here on producing excellent content throughout the organisation. One of his key courses teaches team members at all levels how to produce compelling on-brand video content on their iphones for social.