We began one of our recent media training seminars by asking the attendees to imagine that just outside the door were a reporter and camera crew from one of the local TV stations ready to interview them. How would they feel?
Most agreed the butterflies were already fluttering. One person asked if there was an exit in the back of the room.
Many of us have such a reaction when it comes to facing the media. A reporter with a note pad, microphone and camera is intimidating. Facing a press conference with multiple cameras and microphones can at first seem like a nightmare.
So, how to remain confident in front of the media?
Answering questions from reporters can be brutal. The questions can be sharp and direct, putting you on the defensive. You need your own defensive measures to stay in control of the interview.
One of the easiest to spot is the false premise. The question that's being asked is phrased in such a way that it may be impossible to answer and still get your point across.
The best move to make is to rephrase the question. "What I think you're really asking..." you might say. Or, "What I think the real issue is...."
By rephrasing the question, you answer the question you'd like to answer rather than the one the reporter asked.
Some newsmakers have become popular because they've learned the art of being media friendly. That is, they understand what reporters need and want when it comes to covering their industry or field.
So, are there certain tips or tactics one can use to become more media friendly? Absolutely. We'll outline them over a span of several posts. We suggest you try to put them to use at the next opportunity.
First, we'll look at sound bites.
A media friendly newsmaker has developed the knack of speaking in short, succinct and memorable sound bites. This sounds simple enough, but we can unpack it a bit more.
Tough questions and difficult circumstances can try anyone's patience, especially if you have to face the media in the middle of a crisis.
That's why staying cool under pressure is so important. Easy? Not at all. But essential.
The public, your customers, your employees -- they all want to see you succeed. They want to see you're in control. They want to know that you're handling the crisis.
They want to know that everything will be okay.
When you're dealing with a difficult subject and getting peppered with questions from the media, one very effective strategy in media relations is what we call broadening the issue.
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
After all, what you're experiencing is likely not unique to you or your organization. The problem may affect many others or the issue may have surfaced in other ways at other companies.
TAKE THE SPOTLIGHT OFF OF YOURSELF
So, you want to help reporters understand that this is not simply your problem. In this way, you help to take the spotlight off of yourself and focus it on a much larger playing field.
What's worse than a crisis at your company? A crisis with no crisis communications plan.
As we have counseled clients and here in The Mack Report, you really don't want to make a crisis worse by failing to address your communications needs while also trying to deal with the crisis itself. That's why a crisis communication plan can be worth its weight in gold.
A crisis communications plan starts with making sure you've identified the key players who will address the media and have all of their contact information available. In addition, you need to consider any or all of the following:
When it comes to deciding whether to hold a press conference or other kind of media event, there are definitely two mistakes to avoid. The first is overestimating the importance of your event. The second is underestimating the importance of your event.
Let's face it. Everybody thinks their story is newsworthy and that the media will just naturally beat a path to your door. We see it all the time.
The concern, however, is that this very well may not be the case. Your story may hold little interest among the media, no matter how exciting you try to make it.
What kind of events fall into this category?
Interviews often start with a bang, but end with a whimper. That is, the questions are typically the most hard-hitting at the beginning or soon after an interview starts.
Very often, however, the reporter or host runs out of steam - and questions - and coasts to a conclusion. It's not uncommon for them to ask something like, "Well, is there anything else you'd like to add?"
This is a golden opportunity. The response should never be, "No, I think we covered everything."
Even if you did cover everything, you always want to take the opportunity to restate your key points and remind listeners and viewers of your central message. This is absolutely critical if it's a live interview and you have what amounts to free air time to promote your company, product and brand.
So, your response might go something like, "Well, I just want to thank your for the opportunity to talk about our expansion plans. And, I think it's important to again say how excited we are at (Company name) to be able to add jobs and help boost the local economy."
And, much more could be said, based on what you're trying to communicate through the interview. The point is to never pass up the wrap-up question at the end. Have your message so well thought out that restating it in various forms becomes second nature to you.
We provide media training workshops. Find out more! Follow us on Twitter (@mack_comm).
Media training can be an effective tool to prepare executives, board members and spokespersons to handle a variety of media encounters. Unfortunately, some of the very people who could most benefit from such training don't think they need it.
What are the benefits and why should you consider it for you or your team?
The main benefit is confidence. You've stepped through the various scenarios of what you can expect. Going through group or one-on-one coaching gives you the preparation you need to face a reporter or a radio or TV host. Seeing yourself on camera helps you to see what works and what doesn't.
If you're preparing to face the media or engage in a one-on-one interview, you may be wondering what to expect. What are reporters like? What are they after? What are they thinking?
The answers vary, depending on experience and subject, but overall they're all after pretty much the same thing: a story. As such, the more you can help them tell their story, the more important you become to the reporter. As a result, the better your chances of getting your own story across.