According to TJ Walker of Media Training Worldwide, who recently led a PRSA webinar on Media Training for Public Relations Professionals, there are some key skills we need to know as PR professionals to help our clients prepare for a media interview.
Walker says for every interview, your goal is to get your message across in the final story. But there are actually five possible outcomes:
- Interview, no quote
- Quoted out of context (and sounds racist, sexist, ageist, etc.)
- Quoted, but not your message
- Quoted and pretty much on message (sort of by accident)
- Quoted, word-for-word the message you wanted (and picked in advance)
In order to get to the preferred outcome (#5 above), you first must remember that you have no control over what the reporter will ask. However, there are three elements that you do have control over.
“So, what if a reporter rapid fires several questions at me?” Pick the question to reply to based on which one will let you get back to your message the quickest ~ TJ Walker, Media Training Worldwide.
How to look comfortable. Your client can remember everything you’ve coached them on, including their key message. However, no one will remember if they look stiff or scared. Walker says PR pros should never ever let their client do an interview without a video rehearsal. It doesn’t matter the quality of camera (You can use your cell phone, iPad, or whatever.) It’s just practice. You can even shoot the video in the cab on the way to the interview, as long as your spokespeople see and hear themselves. Even for telephone or traditionally print media, Walker recommends video rehearsal as there are some things that can be heard even if not seen. And, besides, you can pause video to show “bad’ sound bites so the client can hear for themselves.
How to get a solid 30-second point / message across. While brainstorming (sitting around discussing what should be said) has its value, you must get into rehearsal mode as part of your interview prep. What you think you’re going to say goes out the window when the interview begins. Walker advised that when brainstorming, you need to isolate every single message or idea—talking in paragraphs can’t be processed and the context may get cut. Think about what the reporter may ask, what the audience may want to know, and what you want to say, and then narrow that down to the top three. PR pros should not allow their client to do the interview until they’ve narrowed their focus to these three key points and can express them in 30-second sound bites.
How to answer interview questions. Interviews are not like a normal conversation. Responses need to be kept positive, and never guess! If your client doesn’t know the answer, it’s okay to say that – and then bridge back to your three messages.
During the webinar, attendees were able to ask questions, and there was one regarding wardrobe choices that I found exceptionally noteworthy. We ladies tend to think black makes us look slimmer, but Walker says on video black can actually make you look fat. If you can’t see where your body stop and arms begin, your body just blends together making you look wide! Totally makes sense but I’d never thought about it in those terms.
Do you have a media training experience you’d like to share with our readers? What media training tips can you add?