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Media Training: Yes, You Need It

Let’s first talk about what media training is not.

It is not a process of learning how to avoid questions. (And what senior leader of a company or an organization that you know of is too reticent to turn down interview requests?)

A common complaint (especially from reporters) is that no company official or spokesperson should need media training because all you need to do is “tell the truth.” That’s another distraction. Would any C-suite officer in a public company dare not to prepare to take questions from their board, assuming that all they need to do is “tell the truth” and wing the next presentation? How about preparing for that investor presentation? Should senior company officials simply figure they know enough about the company to avoid preparing for investor questions? Right. That would be a ridiculous argument to make.

Yet, in this day and age, when public and private officials alike are scrutinized more than ever before for their responses in media interviews, some still argue against any formal preparation, such as media training. So let me tell you why you and your senior executives need it and what it’ll do for you.

1.)   Message discipline: First and foremost, you want to be consistent and intentional about the messages you put out there. That’s part of your brand. If what you’re saying on your website, if what you’re saying now doesn’t align with what you’ve said to others, or what others on the team have said, you’re going to be held to account for the discrepancies, regardless of your intent.

2.)    Message authenticity: In every media interview, your answers are going to be edited. That’s just the way this works. Reporters aren’t just scribes taking dictation. They’re listening for content, relevance, clarity and how they can summarize or edit what you say to move the story forward. If you distance yourself from putting the message out that you actually intend to deliver, you’re not going to be pleased with the result. No reporter is there to help you get this right. Do you say what you mean and mean what you say? Then you might not want to rely on the first thing that pops into your head when answering a reporter’s question.   

3.)   Message confidence: There are a variety of ways you can answer just about any question a reporter poses, and a variety of ways others on the executive team can do the same. Are all of those answers aligned with how you want to be viewed? Your key audiences should be foremost on your priority list here, meaning your target isn’t the reporter standing in front of you. It’s about those who will be reading, hearing or viewing what you say through the lens of the reporter.

4.)    Message relevance: You’re being interviewed for a reason. Are you clear about what that reason is?  Have you thought through how that aligns with your own company’s brand and reputation, and how any particular media interaction will further or at least not interfere with your goals in enhancing it?

 Every media interview and interaction is an opportunity for those in the public eye to enhance their reputations. But unlike the old adage, all publicity is not helpful. It actually does matter what you do with that opportunity.

Professional Media Training at it’s best, is designed to help you make the most out of every one of those opportunities. Training from a professional who’s been on all sides of the interaction with reporters (including as a reporter and as an advisor when things go wrong) helps those in the public eye not just survive but emerge stronger as a result.

 Get ready for these interactions the same way you’ve gotten ready for every other professional opportunity that could make or break reputations. Prepare. Get yourself and your team media trained, so that you too can make the most out of every media interview.

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