The secrets of media training - 12 top tips
Updated: Sep 16, 2021
Are you worried about an upcoming interview and not sure how to prepare? Lucky for you, you’re in the right place. This blog contains our 12 top tips to help you nail your media interviews.
But first, what exactly is public relations and why is it important?
Public relations (PR) is about managing your organization's brand and communications, by using media channels (e.g. broadcast, print and online), relationships and activities. It is used to drive awareness, foster positive positioning, and counter negativity - especially in times of crisis. Introducing a PR strategy for you/your organization/brand can help you increase awareness, help manage your reputation and strengthen community relations.
Our top tips to help you succeed:
1. Decide the best format
Before even deciding who is right to represent your organization/brand, you need to be thinking about which format of the response is appropriate. Is it a live interview or a written statement? It needs to align with your existing communications strategy, and you may want to reduce any reputational damage surrounding the story.
If for example, you need to defend a negative story that attacks your brand/organization; you're dealing with a reputation issue where you are already depicted as the villain; or crisis communication, you may want to issue a written statement rather than an interview and avoid attention-grabbing headlines by saying something you later regret.
2. Match the spokesperson to the format
Dependent on the format of the interview, you need to select the best person for the job. Consider whether they are quick on their feet to answer a question in a live interview, or whether they are better suited to respond to media queries in writing. You'll need to prepare the spokesperson for different kinds of reporters.
3. Research your interviewer and the medium
Discover a bit more about the person who is interviewing you. Look at their previous interviews to get a sense about what questions they may ask you. You can do this simply by popping their name into an online search engine like Google or Bing. They may even send over their questions in advance if you ask. It's vital to understand the motivations of the interviewer, you may discover through the research that the interviewer likes to delve into private/personal issues and so you need to be prepared for how to answer these. Also do confirm their correspondence email address matches that of the media outlet they say they represent. Many media outlets do commission freelancer writers - you just need to be sure they are credible individuals.
Also, look at the credibility of their platform and better understand who their audience is to ensure the answers resonate, and for you to get a better sense of what they might ask you.
4. Be prepared and consistent
Think about what questions you will be asked and prepare rough answers/list out summary points to discuss, and have a clear focus about the story you intend to tell. We recommend making a list of anything you want to cover. Don’t write a full script, keep your answers natural and tailored to the question. By developing go-to phrases to ensure a consistent 'to brand' message.
You may also want to think about how you can illustrate any points you make with examples. Where possible, undertake media training or get a real-life interview under your belt as soon as possible.
5. Display control and clear communication
To ensure you resonate in a multi-global environment, talk slowly and clearly during the interview and pause to emphasise certain points. This can be really helpful for those with stronger regional accents. By simplifying your language you'll have a clear more impactful message.
When answering a question, incorporate the question within the start of your answer to help keep your answers succinct. Do get your message across early and give examples - you don't have to wait to be asked - just make sure it fits with your responses and doesn't sound out of place. It's your story so use 'bridging' to help you get where you need to be.
Regardless of how much preparation you do, there may be someone that throws you a curveball. Stay composed and don't rise to the bait in an interview to keep the audience with you. Stick to the facts and don't speculate - remember it becomes public record - but avoid saying no comment. Some example answers to pivot or rephrase where appropriate are:
- I don't know about that, but what I can tell you is...
- the real issue is...
- what really matters is…
- that’s an interesting point however I think the real issue here is...
- I'm focused on [2020 and the challenges facing us right now]
Listen closely to what is being said, acknowledge what is being asked and decide how you want to answer.
When interviewing on the phone, if you stand up and smile as you speak (looking into a mirror helps), you'll project better and appear to have more energy. For a print interview - that starts the moment you walk in a room or answer the call.
6. Know the facts
When speaking to an authoritative figure, the interviewer will expect you to have a grasp of the facts and figures related to what you are discussing. Anything that needs to be clarified should be sent soon after the interview to avoid delays in dissemination. Ensure they are correct when stating them as they may become public record.
They are also great for combating challenging questions.
7. Beware of fake news
As part of your research, you will have looked into the interviewer and their platform to check the authenticity to minimize being part of a fake news outlet/story. If you see any errors or misquotes from the interviewer - make sure you reach out to the reporter, cite any errors and ask for them to be corrected before print. If printed, they may need to send out an amendment. Where possible, ask to approve the final piece to ensure the accuracy of information.
8. Concentrate on the flow
Practice doing interviews with a friend or colleague, record yourself on a device like a mobile and replay to see how you come across. Try to breathe and be more relaxed and natural, rather than robotic. When you bring in personal experience, you demonstrate more empathy which resonates well which can also be done with storytelling. Think of it more like a performance and inject some enthusiasm into it (but not too much so you don't want to go over the top!).
Most people feel daunted and on-edge when being filmed – if this is you, it’s important you practice. Discover examples of good interviews on YouTube.
Don't talk over the interviewer - always make sure you listen to their question and then give your considered response. It can make you look defensive, rushed and unprofessional if you answer before they finish.
9. What is your body saying?
When being filmed, use eye contact where possible with the interviewer to reinforce confidence. By using facial expressions you can easily portray your emotions – if it’s a positive story, remember to smile! Do use your hands to help you express your message but don't over-using them, and try not to fidget.
Telling you to relax is easier said than done, but if you prepare well, it will help you make the most of the opportunity. Remember to breathe!
10. Thank the interviewer
Be sure to thank the interviewer for their time and the opportunity.
11. Be the one asked to be quoted
When you demonstrate your authentic expertise in a smart, accessible way and provide interesting quotes, you'll become more attractive to the media to reach out to for quotes.
12. Dealing with trolls
Sadly we live in a world that has created an environment for trolls and trolling. These are individuals (anonymous or fake accounts, or true individuals) who post abusive, harsh, irrelevant and hurtful comments. They are looking to create a stir, cause a reaction and provoke a response. Regardless of your story or what is being trolled, you need to be prepared for this and have a strategy in place to minimize the impact:
- check they are actually a troll before taking any immediate action
- establish a community policy if managing a page or group and remind people of the rules with a link. Most social platforms have their own
- ignore them, don't feed the fire - be mindful your followers and fans may not ignore them but they will be watching how you might respond
- don't be baited
- if you've made a mistake, correct it and own it
- respond to them with facts to disprove their argument and misinformation
- make light of the situation and diffuse with humour
- don't delete their posts as it can escalate their behaviour
- either you or someone should be in control of blocking or banning them
- if you have a blog, make sure you approve comments so you can disregard trolling comments
- by having a loyal community, you may find that the community does some of the work for you
- submit a report to the social platform if they are in violation of the language policies
Check out Hootsuite's social media etiquette.
It’s also important to look after your own mental health – try not to let any negativity get to you and remember the reason behind your story.
We hope you’ve found our tips useful. If you would like further advice or one-on-one media coaching, please get in touch with us. We’re happy to help.