You’ve been asked to do media training to prepare you as a spokesperson for the company for nominated topics and occasions. Your immediate thought is: Why me? I don’t have enough experience/ confidence/ authority/ knowledge/ verbosity/ interest/ time/ [insert any other excuse here]. In this blog post I’ll show you how “you’ve got this!”. Why you’re the best spokesperson for the job.
If your reaction is: Why me? you’re not alone. Fear or nerves, self-doubt, modesty, busyness, scepticism about the media … these are just some of the reasons people are quick to dismiss themselves as viable spokespeople.
Funnily enough, it is often the most appropriate and qualified people who are the first to doubt themselves as spokespeople.
I have trained people across the spectrum, from front-line receptionists to blue-chip CEOs, and I can confidently say the best media spokespeople are not always the obvious – or willing – ones.
Let’s discuss some of your doubts …
You: I’d be too nervous to do a media interview.
Me: Nerves are a good thing and can be harnessed to improve your performance. People who are never nervous are more likely to be overconfident and underprepared. A good media trainer will help you work with your nerves, giving you enough technique and practice to be confident of engaging with a journalist without looking fearful. Media training, done properly, is about building confidence, not instilling fear.
You: I always come out of media interviews feeling like I’ve done a bad job.
Me: It’s common for media training participants to be too embarrassed to review their practice interviews. However, most end up surprised at how well they came across. In the real world, live interviews are rare. Most journalists would prefer to get a good clean grab or quote, so if you do make a mistake, forget something or lose your train of thought, there is usually a chance to try again. Some training and practice will help you discover your safe places and comfort zones that help you out of trouble in media interviews.
You: Why would the media want to talk to me? Don’t they want the top dog?
Me: Most journalists would prefer to talk to someone who is close to the product or issue they are covering. You are more likely to have specific examples, anecdotes and descriptions that help them to tell an interesting story.
You: I don’t know enough about that specific topic OR I’m worried the journalist will know more than I do (OR, if we’re really honest, I’m worried I’ll stuff it up and look silly).
Me: The first rule of media management is to find out exactly what a journalist who approaches you (or your PR people) for an interview wants so the right spokesperson can be assigned to the job. If you’ve been chosen, it’s because you have the appropriate knowledge and information – that’s why the journalist wants to talk to you. Next, there are some simple steps you can follow to ensure you are prepared for the interview. Be assured that, in most cases (except if you’re a party leader on the election campaign trail who can’t remember headline facts and figures), it is OK to say you don’t know something – especially if you point out why (there’s usually a feasible reason), and offer to either find those details later or give them some relevant alternative information.
You: I don’t have the ‘gift of the gab’. Other people in my organisation would be much more natural media talent.
Me: As much as some people attract media because they are great storytellers, when it comes down to it, journalists really need spokespeople who can give them the information and context they need in a form they can understand and share with their audience. You don’t need to be a raconteur to be good media talent. Good media training will give you user-friendly tips and techniques that will help you get your message across as well as give the media what they want.
You: I don’t like being in the spotlight.
Me: Journalists aren’t usually looking for self-promoters. Good ‘talent’, for them, is a spokesperson who can give them information in a form that allows them to tell a complete, interesting and relevant story. They need to source that information to a credible spokesperson – and you may well be that person. You are doing them and your own organisation a service, not promoting yourself.
You: Journalists are always looking to catch you out OR It doesn’t matter what I say, they’ll just twist it to suit their own agenda anyway.
Me: Most journalists want a good story and putting someone on the spot is not usually an effective way of getting that. That is saved for high-profile public figures in a position where their integrity and authenticity need to be interrogated. Having said that, I understand why many people are sceptical about journalists and their modes of operation. So, rather than spend valuable chunks of your time trying to persuade you that all journalists are paragons of virtue and fairness, a good media trainer will instead concentrate on equipping you with some insight into why and how journalists behave the way they do, and the techniques and practice (in a ‘safe’ zone) to deal with that.
You: I don’t have the time to talk to journalists and chase up information for them.
Me: One of the first things good media training will teach you is to be clear about why you are talking to the media. Invariably, there’s a good reason for you to do it. By following our basic planning steps, you will see that the time you spend on preparing for a media interview – which can be quick and easy – is a worthwhile investment.