Given the importance organizations place on generating press coverage, it’s vital to have a strategy and skilled professionals assigned to critical tasks. Preparing individuals charged with speaking to reporters is central to this effort, for five reasons.
1. Media interview training helps individuals cultivate the skills to engage in more productive give and take with reporters. Being interviewed by a reporter isn’t simply a matter of answering questions in rote fashion, while adopting a defensive posture. It’s incumbent on spokespeople to take the initiative in telling the organization’s story, from its perspective. To this end, spokespeople need to be familiar with how reporters work, the editorial environments in which they function, types of questions they’re likely to ask, and their individual backgrounds, among other issues.
2. Trained spokespersons help an organization secure more media coverage. Being interviewed by a reporter does not mean that the person will be quoted, or that a story will even result. So a successful media interview training program must also address what makes news from the journalist’s perspective. Equipped with such knowledge, spokespeople can focus their remarks on what journalists want, suggest story ideas, refer reporters to other resources, and, in short, make themselves valuable resources reporters turn to again and again.
3. Media training produces better media coverage. Organizations want media coverage that, to the extent possible and practical, reflects its key messages – in other words, the main points the organization wants readers/viewers/listeners to gain from coverage. Training is the best way to assure that spokespeople master these main messages and skillfully weave them into their answers to a reporter’s questions.
4.Media training increases likelihood that what you want to communicate is covered. It’s impossible for individuals in any audience to understand the purpose of your communication if you don’t know what you want to say. Media training forces an organization to clarify what it wants to say and how, thereby increasing the likelihood that a reporter will understand these messages and, ideally, report about the organization more accurately.
5.Media training educates spokespersons on typical media relations challenges. Myths abound as to how journalists work and the vital role media relations professionals play in the editorial process. Training invites spokespersons into this process, introducing them to the art and science of building productive relationships with reporters and the vital role they play. Perhaps more important, key players within the organization begin to incorporate media considerations into their thinking as a by-product of a comprehensive training program, which benefits the entire organization as it strives to navigate through a media-rich world.