The phrase “media training” can strike fear in anyone not used to talking to reporters.
But it doesn’t have to.
An interview with a reporter can stir some common anxiety — and, just as dangerously, a dismissive arrogance. That’s the same from the C-suite to public relations agencies, from town halls to small businesses.
But maybe you want more coverage, or need to get ready for it when it comes. Maybe you want to raise your media profile, or position your executive as an industry leader. Or maybe you’ve been put forward by your organization as a spokesperson.
I’ve been on both sides of the media conversation, as a reporter and as a corporate communicator. Media training for successful interviews can be more involved, of course, depending on the person and situation.
For starters, at least, follow these media training tips for successful interviews with TV, newspaper, magazine or digital reporters.
10 Media Training Tips for Successful Interviews
start the conversation by saying, “What’s your angle?” It’s defensive and somewhat insulting. Better to say something like this: “I’m happy to help if I can. What’s the story you’re working on?”
know who’s calling. Reporters are not investors or analysts. They don’t have time or interest in the James Michener version of the topic. And one from a trade publication might seek a different depth than your local daily.
have two or three key points sketched out in advance of the interview. It’ll help you stay on track and to keep your responses short, simple and quotable. That will increase your chances of making it into the story.
humanize the story. Reporters often need real examples to bring stories to life. Make it easy on them with credible, compelling people and contact information.
think you have to have an answer for everything. It’s OK if you don’t know, or if you’re uncomfortable discussing something outside your scope. Just say, “I’ll have to look into that and call you back. When is your deadline?”
return the call – on time. Reporters are often busy and stressed out. Today’s newsrooms have fewer staff members than ever. You can establish a good relationship by doing what you say you’re going to do, and by honoring basic courtesy.
say “that’s off the record.” Assume it’s all on the record and for attribution. If you think you want to “go off the record” before you share something sensitive, ask the reporter first. Then reach an agreement about exactly what that means and what it covers. Contrary to how it’s portrayed on TV, reporters don’t just go off the record without a really good reason. And in advance.
ask to see the story before it airs or is published. Better to say, “Feel free to call or email me if you have any questions later.” That way, a reporter will feel confident fact-checking if he or she needs to.
pitch your own ideas for follow-ups and offer yourself as an ongoing resource. Good reporters always want to meet smart, savvy people on their beats, not just when they need a quick quote.
How about you? Any questions or suggestions? Let me know: email@example.com.
Thanks to Atlanta artist Chris Veal for letting me edit and use his mural.