A bumbling celebrity struggling to find the right words to a question asked by a particularly persistent journalist, a panicky politician trying their best to worm their way out of a press conferences – these are all familiar images in our media which occur at an embarrassingly common rate.
While these individuals have likely been through some form of media training, given their public personas, it is hardly reflected in the way they conduct themselves. So, even with quality media training and regular practise, what are the main things one should look out for when preparing to face the media?
Here are three key messages to keep in mind, before putting yourself out there:
Possess the right amount of confidence
While any good spokesperson must possess confidence, this confidence must be laid in the right area. It should come from knowledge possessed by the spokesperson in the given topic of discussion, as well as their own preparation for the interview.
However, things can take a turn for the worse if this confidence is placed in the wrong areas. If you’re over-confident, you can end up not wanting to undergo any form of media training, because of your steadfast belief in your own verbal skills. It’s very common to see an extroverted company spokesperson believe they can “wing” it just because they are comfortable in social situations.
Any spokesperson worth their salt should approach interviews having done a good amount of preparation. Preparation and confidence go hand-in-hand, as adequate preparation will cause the spokesperson to be more confident when conversing with the media.
Preparation should include a wide understanding of the subject matter and key media messages. However, over-preparation can be deadly if the spokesperson refuses to focus on anything other than the topic or questions shared by the reporter prior to the interview. Their insistence on staying within the confines of prepared material might inhibit the natural flow of the conversation and freeze up, as a result.
We once worked with a business leader who was incredibly intelligent and charismatic, and liked to prepare for media interviews by having us attack him from all angles, in a bid to throw him off his key message. He never rested on his laurels and was a perfect spokesperson on camera, even when the reporters tried their best to get him to give them a juicy headline.
Let the conversation flow
While most media trainers will tell their clients about the importance of getting all key messages across in an interview. This is to prevent the spokesperson from getting entangled in a conversation and divulge unnecessary details which reporters might catch onto.
There are other ways to control the conversation. Spokespeople are often advised to use the bridging technique so they can steer the conversation in a way that makes sense. However, excessive adherence to structure is problematic, as relying excessively on a conversational template will make the spokesperson look disengaged and inauthentic. The reporter also find it difficult to find something to talk about.
While this list of key things for media spokespeople to watch out for, is by no means exhaustive – it’s simple to digest and something that people can remember easily.
Want to be grilled by our in-house media trainers? We’ll do the needful if you drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org