Have you ever heard an executive ramble or freeze during an interview? What about an executive who accidentally shares confidential information with a reporter? Although these situations happen, media training can help avoid them and prevent other potential mistakes during interviews.
Media training is highly effective in helping leaders develop the skills needed to get their messages across succinctly and with impact. When leaders become effective spokespeople, the media will return to them again and again for expert commentary on relevant topics.
Regardless of previous media experience, preparation is key to successful interviews. Here are three other big benefits of media training:
1. Your key messages are clear
It’s true to say that interview questions don’t matter all that much. The most important part of an interview is the interviewee’s responses. Interviews should ALWAYS be considered opportunities to deliver key messages to stakeholders. The most seasoned executives know how to turn any question into an opportunity to reinforce the company’s most important messages.
When executives participate in interviews, it’s important that they learn how to keep responses concise, structured and engaging while staying on message. It can be easy to get rattled or off track during an interview if the spokesperson isn’t prepared, which is why it’s critical that an executive knows exactly what s/he wants to say beforehand. Reporters often ask the same question several times in different ways to get the most insight possible. Media preparation helps executives stay on track regardless of the questions asked.
2. You’re ready for difficult questions
It isn’t uncommon for journalists to ask questions that are difficult to answer. The best way to answer challenging questions is to learn how to prepare for them and use them to pivot back to established key messages. Get at least one other person to help brainstorm difficult questions and then prepare and rehearse the responses. Seasoned interviewees know how to “bridge,” or pivot the conversation back to their key messages, by using phrases like “We’re more focused on…” or “What’s more important is…”.
Perhaps the worst response to a difficult question is “no comment.” Refusing to answer a question or walking away from a conversation can be damaging. Remember that tough questions are often part of the journalistic process and not personal attacks. If executives have done their homework and prepared for hard questions, they are much less likely to lose their cool and control of the conversation.
3. Common missteps are avoided
Interview techniques aren’t always intuitive. Just because an executive is knowledgeable and articulate doesn’t mean s/he should skip media training. There are several common pitfalls that can be easily avoided once an executive has learned how to navigate them.
One common example is filling silence with more commentary than needed. Reporters occasionally use natural discomfort elicited by extended pauses to see if an executive will continue to speak. Most people are naturally inclined to fill silence and continue on. Instead, simply stop and wait for the next question. Conversely, executives may get asked a question and respond with phrases like “that’s a great question” to buy themselves thinking time before responding. Instead of using filler phrases that could potentially sound patronizing or unhelpful, media training can help executives get into the rhythm of simply pausing and thinking about what they want to say before beginning their answer.
Media training is an important investment in your company’s reputation and success. Every interview is an opportunity to position and differentiate your business, and even the most experienced interviewees can always improve. By honing your message, preparing for challenging questions and knowing the pitfalls to avoid, executives will feel more confident and equipped to deliver an interview that represents themselves and their businesses well.
If you want to learn more about media training and how it can help you or your team, please contact us.
Julia Bonner is the founder and president of Pierce Public Relations.