Media Training in 2020: Tips and Trends [Guide]

Anyone who has to represent an organization or a business or anyone that needs to reach the public has to successfully deal with the media. Being confident when stepping in front of the microphone and cameras with all the lights shining is something that can be achieved with decent media training.

It could be a short statement for the press, or perhaps an interview in a TV studio, or even a detailed radio discussion – whatever it is, most people tend to get stressed when it comes to any type of public speaking arrangement. There aren’t too many people that actually have a natural talent for speaking in front of a public. However, the good news is that this is a skill that can easily be mastered, and with some practice, anyone can hold a great speech no matter the situation.

While the media landscape is constantly changing and shifting, media training remains as important as ever, as communicators still have to focus on getting a message across, whether that’s to the public or to the journalists.

Media Training in 2020

Key Message

Most of the time, when someone is speaking to the public, they don’t get a lot of time to get their key message across. In fact, most research has shown that when listening to a speech, the public tends to lose its focus after just a few minutes. This is why it’s important to present the core message briefly and effectively.

The key message is the most important thing that the audience needs to hear and understand about the organization or the business. This is what’s at the core of the business and what makes the audience connect with that organization, which is why it has to be stated clearly at the very beginning.

Preparedness

Aside from knowing what the key message is that the spokesperson needs to deliver, this person also has to be trained to understand the different types of reporters and journalists. Although there are interviewers that are very skilled in getting the right information out of the person they are interviewing, the spokesperson has to be able to understand who they are talking to.

Being well prepared also means that the spokesperson is not going to come across as robotic while in front of the cameras. The audience isn’t going to be charmed by a few message points that the person has practically memorized and is constantly reiterating them.

Control

Media training doesn’t only involve knowing what the messages are and the best way to convey them. There are plenty of times when a journalist or a reporter will ask a question that the spokesperson is not prepared to answer – perhaps due to oversight, or even as simple as it being a completely different subject.

However, with the right type of media training, the spokesperson will have plenty of ways to politely rephrase any irrelevant or uncomfortable question, while moving to a much better response. This can be done with a simple transitional phrase, politely rephrasing what was previously stated, or simply patiently repeating the key message once again.

Public relation professionals should be pros at media, but their clients may not have gotten to that point yet, and it’s up to their PR people to help them improve. Many studies over the years have shown that one of people’s top fears is of public speaking. So, it should not be surprising to anyone that many leaders of companies, even big companies, sometimes get nervous about speaking in front of a group of people. But it’s not possible to hide away and shift all the responsibility to someone else when you are the leader. Leaders need to lead, even in dealing with the media and talking in front of others.

Practice

Of course, the training needs to happen, but like almost everything, we get better as we practice doing it right… practice done wrong will not lead to improvement though. So a big part of media training should be putting the student in front of others who will ask them random questions. Let them answer completely. Then stop and find out what the group suggests as a different approach, including bad ones. It’s easier to learn what should happen when both the pros and cons are open for analysis.

Prep Time Before the Real Thing

Go into any interview or media presentation with every bit of knowledge you can think of regarding the topic, your organization, and any current events that might be tied to your industry. When you know the answers, it’s much more effective than floundering. But also practice the handy little phrase. “I’m not sure of the exact answer off the top of my head. Will you leave your contact information with my assistant and I will get back to you with that information.” Then you need to follow through with that promise quickly.

  • Take a fact sheet showing detailed information as you go to any interview, this is especially helpful when the interview is about a specific situation or topic.
  • Stand if addressing a group, sit if you are in a one-on-one discussion.
  • If you are going to be filmed, dress professionally. For radio, podcasts, or print interviews, you can be a little more relaxed in how you dress, but you still want to be professional, so if they are filming, suit and tie for a man are good, for the others, still a suit jacket and button-up shirt or nice turtleneck will work well.
  • Figure out a few “sound bites” you can use to make your points. No need to use them all, but if you have five of them, it gives you the option of which ones to use during any interview.
  • Find out the length of the interview so you can cover the most important points in your time frame. Always have more than enough to share, but hit the big items before your time runs out.

When it’s Over

When it is completed, then it’s time to review. What could have been done to better effect, what would you change for the next time. If it was filmed, see if you can get a copy so you can check how you come across to the camera. Whatever else you can think of that might be improved the next time. That’s the way to become an expert at media interviews.