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.
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.
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