How should I prepare for media interviews?
The key is to seek media training from a seasoned freelance journalist. I’ve been interviewing people for national newspapers, B2B magazines and consumer magazines for more than two decades.
It all starts with agreeing what the company wants to get across and then helping executives craft answers that demonstrate thought leadership but also incorporate those key corporate messages.
After a morning or afternoon’s media training, executives feel confident and empowered to give compelling interviews that add to the story but also amplify the company’s messaging.
How do I organise media training?
The first priority is to discuss messaging. Every business needs to know what it wants to tell the world about itself.
The next step is moulding what you want to say into insight to offer informed answers to questions journalists will likely be asking about key industry trends.
A lot of media training only covers being interviewed. That is a mistake. Just as an athlete wins the majority of their medals in training, executives need to hone their messaging and then fit it in to responses.
In my sessions, we start with the messaging and then run through a mock telephone, face to face and then video interview. We review each one, typically looking at missed opportunities to get the company’s messaging in, often also noting waffle that will never make it to the journalist’s final report.
We then go through the process again. I’ve not yet held a session where execs weren’t impressed by the progress they make during the morning or afternoon.
What participants learn
The biggest key learning is that an interview is the company’s chance to deliver its key message. Even if it doesn’t fit with the line of questioning, additional points can be added by an interviewee.
Another point is to not fall into a trick of filling the gaps for a journalist, to give concise answers that provide insight without spilling the beans because the conversation’s gone quiet.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for many execs I media train is that they are actually the expert, that’s why they’ve been asked for an interview. So, they shouldn’t be worried about challenging the assumption left in a question and to politely make points that run counter to what the journalist appears to be looking for.
Confidence from media training
Before these lessons can be put into place, though, these pointers need to be practised. That means execs are confident in getting their message across and providing evidence and anecdotal observation to back them up.
If an exec is nervous and unprepared with no plan to deliver on, the results can be embarrassing for them, and the brand they represent.
Want your execs to shine in the media?
“I used Sean when I worked at AI company Realeyes, and I would definitely recommend him to anyone looking to train their team on how to effectively deal with the media. Whether it was for print or broadcast interviews, he was excellent at helping our spokespeople deliver their key messages more effectively, and was always patient and clear in what he was asking. The improvements he made to the team were immediate, impactful and long-lasting.”
David Waterhouse, Global VP of Communications at ad tech company Unruly.
“Sean has provided media training for Resonance on a number of occasions and his work has always been superb. He has expert knowledge of the media landscape and brings a friendly demeanour to the training sessions that puts our clients at ease during practice interviews.”
Tom Fry, Managing Director, Resonance (PR agency)