By NMC Account Executive Greg Glynn
Getting interviewed by the media is a lot like riding a bike; the more you do it, the more you improve at it. If you've never had media training, it's like keeping the training wheels on your bike. Sure, you can continue riding a bike with them on, but you’ll never reach your full potential. Media training is a vital part of helping companies and organizations maximize their potential, because, unlike a business or organization in the media spotlight, when you fell off your bike for the first time, chances are thousands of people weren't watching you.
With media interviews, instead of just risking a few bumps and bruises, your professional reputation and brand messages are on the line. If you don't know the skills and attributes that create a good interview, you are missing a huge opportunity.
Here are seven ways media training will help you nail your next interview.
1. Learn how to prepare for the interview
If you've done an interview before, you might have thought to yourself, “I wish I had known they were going to ask me about that.” This is where preparation is key. Media training can help you think more like a journalist so you can anticipate their questions.
Tip: Think of the best and worst questions a reporter could ask, then prepare for how you would answer each question. By doing this exercise, you have prepared for best-case and worst-case scenarios.
2. Use the tools for success
To prepare for your interview, you need the right tools. Think back to your last interview; did you have a fact sheet or message map that you reviewed prior to the interview? These are two tools that media training experts use to help you prepare for an interview and become more confident about what to say when you get the chance to say it.
Tip: a message map is better for a broad interview and a fact sheet is better for an interview on a specific subject, crisis or event.
3. Gain confidence
Media training is a chance to learn industry tips about how you can gain and exude confidence for your interview. This includes knowing the best ways to handle a tough question and how to dress.
Tip: when provided with an option of sitting or standing for an interview, choose to stand as your voice will project better.
4. Learn the differences between a television, radio or print interview
Not all interviews are created equal. For example, a television interview, depending on the location, can take three to five minutes, but if it is part of a larger news package they might just use a very small portion of what you said. Your goal is to have sound bites that match the style of the interview. A successful radio interview typically requires more repetition (since there are no visuals) and although a print interview is a longer format interview, knowing how to get your message across in the right length sound bite becomes crucial.
Tip: Ask the reporter or producer how long the interview will be, so that you can decide what points are most important to get in during that time period. Be sure to close the interview by sharing where people can go to get more information; for example, provide your website or phone number.
5. Measure your success
As a follow-up to #4, if you don't provide a call to action or resource for more information, measuring your success becomes a lot harder. If you have said to yourself after an interview “I think it went OK, but I'm not sure,” you will love this part about media training.
Before the interview, it is important to identify the type of interview so you know what measurement tools you will be able to use. If it is about a new product, you know you have to mention the key attributes of the product so people will want to buy it and tell them how they can buy it (website, phone) then measure the increase in Web visits or phone calls. If the interview is more informational in nature and you’re not selling something, then it becomes more important to share your brand messaging and convey trust to the audience. In most cases, there will be some type of action you want people to take (volunteer, register or donate). You want people to learn more about you, so similar to sales, you want to measure increases in Web or phone traffic and also in referrals or additional media inquiries. Be sure to use social media as another way to measure your success.
To judge or rate your interview I like to use the “three Is.” Information (accurate and succinct), image (how well did you present yourself and the information) and impression (are people going to want to take an action because of the impression you made on them in the interview).
Tip: Make sure you use Google Analytics to track Web statistics and also monitor and post information about the interview on your social media accounts before and after the interview.
6. What is news and what isn't
Media training experts can help you decide what is news and what isn't. If you've thought a story should have received coverage and it didn't or you did an interview but it never aired, there are reasons why.
Tip: When planning a press event, if possible, host it mid-morning; this gives reporters from all media the best chance to attend.
7. Get interviewed again
Media are more likely to reach out to sources for information and interviews that can demonstrate the ability to provide a good interview and accurate information in a timely manner. Media training can help you identify what the media are looking for, and how you can build stronger relationships with reporters and producers so they pick up the phone to call you first.
Tip: If the media call you for an interview, it is best to return their call as soon as you can so they don't run up against their deadline and turn to another source.
At Nancy Marshall Communications (NMC), we provide a comprehensive two-hour session that touches on all the elements in this article, plus much more. The best way to get ready for your next interview is to plan ahead. Professional media training continues to be one of the many ways companies and organizations can positively reflect their brand to a massive audience.
About the author
Greg Glynn is an account executive at NMC and leads the media training sessions for the agency. He is a former vice president of communications and broadcaster for the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League. Glynn is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he earned his bachelor's degree in mass communications with a concentration in broadcast journalism.