I’m a university professor, and our dean has decided that all of our faculty should sign up for an on-campus media training, since our new media relations person has been getting us a lot of media interviews. With teaching, writing, researching and serving on committees, I really don’t have time. After all, I’m speaking publicly all of the time – to my students and at various conferences. I see that you write a lot about media training on your blog and offer it at your firm. Can you tell me why someone in my position should bother with this?
Thank you for asking because we have heard this question quite often in the past, although not as much recently. Increasingly, chief executives and others who are called upon to represent their organizations are realizing that being interviewed by a member of the news media is not the same as doing a sales presentation, speech or classroom lecture. It’s a special skill in and of itself.
The rise of social media has played a big part in this transformation by making media gaffes more damaging to reputations than had previously been the case. Something said in an interview in Cleveland can now be broadcast around the globe in a matter of minutes. Even on a smaller scale, the rapid spread of information is daunting.
Most people who do media interviews do not have to worry about responding to a negative situation; they are more concerned with promoting their organization and its products or services. A media interview is a great opportunity to do so. Unfortunately, many people don’t take full advantage of that opportunity and are disappointed with the results.
That’s where media training can help. The important thing to remember is that when you are being interviewed by a member of the news media, you are not just talking to that person; you are conveying information to the people who are reading or listening to his or her report.
Keeping that in mind, here are some things to think about before you decide whether or not to participate in media training:
- When you speak in class and at conferences, how much time do you have to get your point across? 15 minutes? 30 minutes? 50 minutes? Can you do it in 10 seconds?
- If someone asks you about an award you won for a research project, do you: a. Start by describing your research process and how you finally came to the conclusion that won you the award? This can work for a conference speech where everyone is interested in the details of your project. b. Tell them what the award was for and what it will mean to the audience reading – or listening to – your answer? This is what the public is interested in.
- When an interviewer asks what you consider a “dumb” question, do you: a. Get irritated that they haven’t done their homework? Be careful not to talk down to the interviewer – and the public he or she represents. b. Realize you haven’t been doing a very good job of communicating and try a different way of explaining yourself? The clear explanation is the one that will be quoted.
- What kind of preparation do you do before an interview? a. You feel you know your subject area, so you plan to just answer the interviewer’s questions. This could present a problem, especially if the interviewer is not familiar with your work. b. You come prepared with messages to work into the interview so you can get the most important information out to the public. This is the path to a successful interview.
In short, giving media training a chance. You may be surprised at how much you learn.