age of overcommunication in which we currently practice public relations makes
""cutting through the noise"" a practitioner's most difficult challenge.
often than not, the bottom line for ""cutting through the noise"" is all about
publicity. The necessary skill set for the function is familiar: developing
key messages; writing and distributing press releases, pitch letters, and e-mail;
preparing offline and online press kits; making phone calls; arranging face
to face meetings with editors; and monitoring resulting coverage.
important is the need to train those individuals charged with speaking directly
with the media. Any interview, whether with a regional newsletter, trade publication,
local television station, or The New York Times, can go awry if the spokesperson
is ill-trained to meet the reporter's needs as well as tell the story of his
or her organization.
benefits of media interview training are three-fold. First, training increases
the likelihood that the spokesperson understands, internalizes, and communicates
those main points that public relations staff would ideally like to see make
their way into a journalist's story. Most spokespersons need to reshape the
way they think and speak about their company to communicate these fundamental
media training highlights the three primary roles of the organizational spokesperson
-- first, expert; then, educator; and, finally, salesperson -- as well as how
journalists do their job.
media training done well inevitably impresses on both internal staff and external
clients -- to an extent they haven't realized previously -- the true nature
of challenges faced daily by media relations professionals in their efforts
to secure press coverage at print, broadcast, and Internet-based outlets.
training increases the likelihood of reaping these benefits when the trainer
sees himself or herself as primarily a catalyst for change. Successful training
changes attitudes and related behaviors towards the media. As such, it inspires
appropriate enthusiasm for the nuances of communicating effectively with reporters.
Teaching skills and sharing knowledge of the way the media work certainly is
important, but experience shows that successful spokespeople under- stand the
journalistic process and carry with them the right frame of mind to deal with
its infinite, and often frustrating, twists and turns.
More specifically, a successful media trainer:
by eliciting feedback from trainees about their experience in being interviewed
by the media, and their thoughts and feels about coverage of the company.
Tapping into this pool of information cues the trainer to potentially sensitive
points, subjects that require further explanation, and the personalities,
attitudes, and skills that current or potential organizational spokes- people
bring with them to the training.
the publicity process and how reporters obtain and use information in as much
detail as necessary. Depending on the particular needs of trainees, this step
calls on the trainer to candidly share the good, bad, and truly ugly stories
on ""how"" and the ""why"" of the newsmaking process.
the aforementioned explanation by citing relevant industry and company developments,
as well as media outlets and specific journalists most important for the spokesperson(s)
critical issues the company needs to communicate to target media, as well
as potentially difficult issues likely to be raised by reporters. Outlines
questions based on these issues.
these critical issues in the form of a main message and two to three supporting
messages. Emphasizes the need to communicate messages clearly and concisely,
adding details as needed based on the reporter's interests as well as on the
demands of the particular media outlet.
ample opportunity for practice in answering questions and communicating key
messages. Simulates in-person and phone interviews through role playing sessions,
with the trainer assuming the role of reporter. Tapes these sessions. Reviews
tapes with trainees in painstaking detail, analyzing the reporter/spokesperson
question and answer dynamic. Offers copious suggestions for improving how
the organization's main message/supporting messages are communicated, and
how difficult issues are explained. These suggestions include techniques for
shaping responses to increase the likelihood of being quoted.
appropriate, cites third party resources on media and presentation skills
training to support points. It's actual resources and other direction to trainees
interested in learning more on their own.
creates a training environment that fosters avid participation by trainees,
frank exchange of ideas, and absolute candor. Spokesperson(s), media relations
practitioners, and the media trainer must work closely together to establish
this kind of environment and ensure that the lessons learned are applied over
the long term.
2000 Mitchell Friedman, APR