Media training 101: how to get it right

January 20, 2020By Ken DeeksInsights

Even with a solid understanding of your story, facing the media can be nerve-wracking. Our Chairman and Amber Group Director, Ken Deeks, shares his media training top tips on how to communicate confidently and effectively.

Facing a media interview can be a daunting challenge – everything you say CAN find itself in print and online, for all to see. Forever!

All it takes is one slip of the tongue………

That’s why most organisations insist on their spokespeople being fully trained before handling any media interviews. As an ex-journalist and media trainer with 25 years’ experience, I’m often asked for my top tips on how to get it right. So, here are my top 5 tips.

1. Prepare. Then prepare. Then prepare some more.

It seems obvious, but some spokespeople just don’t do it. They come out with the same old fluff they’ve said before and are then really surprised when they don’t get the coverage they thought they’d get. Top prep tips:  really understand what the journalist is looking for. Make yourself familiar with the publication and focus on what you think the readers of that publication really care about. For example, an IT manager will want something different from a CIO, who will want something different to a network manager. Tailor the story for the audience.

2. Don’t answer questions you don’t want to answer.

If you don’t want something to appear in print then just don’t say it. Avoid clichés like ‘no comment’; instead, acknowledge the question and then bridge to another point YOU want to make. For example: “That’s an interesting question, but actually what we are seeing is a real uptake of solutions that provide a………”

3. Be clear about the message YOU want to deliver.

As part of the prep, think about the headline you’d like to see. Visualise it, write it down. Then think about the first paragraph – again visualise it and write it down. Everything you then say should lead to you achieving YOUR headline and first paragraph.

4. To help achieve this, use what we call ‘verbal underlining’.

EMPHASISE your key points. Use words like ‘significantly’ and ‘importantly’ to set up the piece of content you want to deliver. Pause. And the slowly deliver THE key message.

5. Confidence will come with knowing what you can say and what you can’t.

Both public and private companies will have rules on what you can disclose, whether that’s overall revenues; revenues by territory or product area; future predictions etc. Importantly, you need to know which customers you can reference and the ones you can’t. Having a clear understanding of this will give you the confidence to choose to answer the question or to bridge to another point.

There you have it, these are my top 5 tips. But – and this is the most important point to make (see what I did there?!!) – you do need to practice beforehand. We do mock interviews as part of our training and it really is the best way to learn and to make sure you get it right.

We regularly host bespoke media training workshops for our clients on how to handle yourself professionally when dealing with the media. To find out more on media training, contact us.

More about Ken, C8 Chairman and a Director of Communications at The Amber Group

Ken has spent his career in communications. He started off as a journalist working mainly for local newspapers as well as a spell on the Daily Mirror, before moving into PR. For several years, Ken ran a series of PR companies, operating mainly in the tech sector. He is now a Director of Communications at The Amber Group, as well as Chairman of C8.