Posts Tagged ‘media training’

Media Training: Don’t Show Up Arrogant

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

Most people when arriving for media training are humble. They are not naturally comfortable talking with the media. The media make them nervous. They do not even like seeing themselves on camera. The very presence of one in the same room makes them uneasy.

Then there are those who walk in arrogant. They are leaders in their industry. They’re wildly successful. They believe this leads to an ability of easily handling any punch the media might throw at them.

But those media training participants forget that their employees and managers often do not dare ask them tough questions or raise uncomfortable scenarios. That’s our job. And when we ask about problems with their company, services or products, those participants sometimes wobble like a fighter in the boxing ring. They sometimes provide rambling, complex answers full of lingo that few people outside their world would fully understand. And when we ask our tough questions with the swiftness of a powerful right hook, I wonder if they’re thinking who are these schmoes who dare challenge me? Don’t they know who I am?

Media training should represent a worst-case scenario of interacting with reporters. It’s invaluable practice. But you must walk in with a willingness to learn and listen and not because a marketing manager twisted your arm and re-arranged your schedule. Some reporters love an opportunity to take down an industry champion. Be humble and willing to take a few punches from a sparring partner, which will position you to stand tall during a prize fight.

Media Training: 6 Tough Questions From Reporters

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

  1. What about the problems reported about your service or product?
  2. Why is your pricing the way it is?
  3. What’s new about your product or service?
  4. How well is your product or service selling and can you provide data?
  5. How is your service or product different than the competitor’s?
  6. What about security related to your product or service?

Media Training: Colts Owner Dropped Ball

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

USA TODAY quoted Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay as saying, “You make the playoffs 11 times, and you’re out in the first round seven out of 11 times. You love to have the Star Wars numbers from Peyton and Marvin (Harrison) and Reggie (Wayne). Mostly, you love this.”

According to USA TODAY, “this” is a reference to the owner’s Super Bowl championship ring.

USA TODAY then reported the quote bothered Peyton Manning’s current coach John Fox, who considered the comment as a criticism of Manning for winning only one Super Bowl.

People we provide media training to often request the service in anticipation of an event likely to prompt questions from reporters. USA TODAY quoted the Colts owner as Manning prepared to return to Indianapolis to face his old team. If we had provided media training beforehand for the Colts owner, we would have asked him during mock interviews the toughest and most uncomfortable questions we could conjure up about Manning. Even though the owner may not have intended to insult Manning, we would have explained how some people might infer he is criticizing his former star. We would have advised him to explain himself more carefully. The football world probably understands better than most that practice is crucial preparation for the real thing.

The Colts owner says people misunderstood his comment. He says he was referring to the organization as a whole and not singling out Manning. The Colts are honoring their former quarterback, but now media stories are focusing on his relationship with Irsay. Irsay posted several Tweets clarifying his point. Our point is he could have avoided this discussion and distraction from the start.

Media Training: The Rule Is Keep Your Cool

Monday, September 16th, 2013

A recent media training included a recurring theme: the importance of keeping calm.

Stories about this particular client often involve controversy. Some members of the organization apparently want to know why those speaking to the media don’t hit back harder. I infer those members who are critical feel their group is too often a punching bag or responses are too soft.

Sometimes it is not easy to keep your cool. Consider that politicians and athletes speak to the media more often than most others. Despite their experience, we regularly hear stories about politicians being defensive or athletes creating headlines by the way they talk to reporters. The public sometimes likes to see these public figures dig in, but most often, the reaction is not positive.

Before striking for the jugular, ask yourself a couple of questions: Would a verbal attack come back and bite you either in the court of public opinion or in a court of law? Would your comments allow you to win the battle of the day but hurt your long-term efforts in winning the war?

Strategically, a time might present itself to let loose. But the brief joy you feel by telling someone off via the media might not help achieve a happy ending later on.

Media Training In Flagstaff To Prevent Interview Gaffes

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

I have made several treks to Flagstaff to report about snow. Snow falling in Flagstaff often sent the newsroom into defcon 5. (Reporters sitting around the conference room table during the preceeding editorial meeting wouldn’t look producers in the eye, hoping this strategy would decrease chances of being assigned to once again cover the phenomenon know as snowflakes.) But my lastest trip to Flagstaff seemed more treacherous.

This time, I drove up to conduct media training for an organization the media seem to regularly quote regarding various controversies. I assumed the pounding rain streaking down onto Interstate 17 would eventually relent the further north I drove. I assumed wrong. The rain tracked me the entire two-hour drive. Each time I changed lanes, my car often started to slide as if a thin layer of ice was instead beginning to blanket the pavement. At one point, I drove through a low-hanging cloud, probably unable to see 100 yards ahead.

The media training itself was the easy part. I listed below some of my observations I posted during media training as we helped the organization prepare to navigate future interviews. And to reinforce that rain can not fully dilute the often beautiful drive to and from Flagstaff, I included below a picture of the magnificant clouds that emerged on my drive back.

  • Media training participant learns about simplifying answers.
  • Media training participant hears about not guessing about numbers and statistics.
  • Media training participants discuss the balancing act of how strongly to react in the media.
  • Media training participant raises concerns about media stories being one sided.
  • Media training participant talks about importance of not responding in anger.
  • Media training participant hears about not speculating.
  • Media training participant says, “That’s not a good question” when asked a tough question. (That’s not the correct response.)
  • Media training participant learns about not repeating back a reporter’s negative question.
  • Media training participants hear about handling questions regarding negative stories from the past.

VIDEO: Could Calling The Media Backfire?

Monday, August 5th, 2013
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Our Video For The BBB About A Moving Company

Sunday, July 28th, 2013
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Will Steak And Candy Ensure The Media Quote You?

Thursday, July 25th, 2013


President Obama delivered an economic speech at Knox College and, according to The New York Times, here are some responses from Republican leaders:

Speaker John Boehner: “What’s it going to accomplish? You’ve probably got the answer: nothing. It’s a hollow shell. It’s an Easter egg with no candy in it.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader: “With all the buildup, you’d think the president was unveiling the next Bond film or something. But in all likelihood it will be more like a midday rerun of some ‘70s B-movie. Because we’ve heard it all before. It’s old.”

The Associated Press reported that Boehner said the president’s new economic push was “all sizzle and no steak.”

Discussions about the economy raise references to Easter and James Bond. Do you think these references came off-the-cuff?

Behind closed newsroom doors, some journalists snicker and mock such contrived soundbites. But in reality, most reporters cannot prevent themselves from repeating such quotes. Politicians know it. Journalists might scoff at this, but think how easily politicians manipulate and ultimately control what reporters put in print and on the airwaves. When I interviewed someone, I almost always knew what soundbites I would use before leaving the room. But in most cases, unlike politicians, the people I interviewed most of the time provided those soundbites by accident without as much pre-planning.

You do not want to sound necessarily like a politician or create the same environment of cynicism. But politicians remind us that journalists almost always prefer a witty soundbite that encapsulates the subject in a few words as opposed to a very detailed analysis that puts people to sleep. Many journalists claim they hate clichés, but ultimately they often use them as soundbites. You do not want to sound robotic, but think of ways to control the message. Discuss ahead of time soundbites that journalists will view as steak at an expensive dinner. How can you help people understand your complex message in a relatable way? Do you need to bring up Easter eggs, James Bond or the Loch Ness monster? Do you need to explain you make enough product to fill a stadium? Do you need to point out new legislation includes enough paperwork to reach the moon?

Remember, journalists may claim they want vegetables at that high-priced dinner, but if you offer them steak and follow it up with some nice dessert, most of them cannot resist.

Applaud Cheerios For Showing Family Few Others Will

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013


Yes, we took notice of the Cheerios commercial showing a white mom and an African American dad. We took notice because how many companies are willing to show interracial couples in their commercials? And why not? Look around. Couples whose faces do not look alike are part of America’s fabric. Look no further than our president. Look no further than my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

But Cheerios still had to fend off people leaving shameful comments. (Notice comments are disabled for the video unlike other Cheerios commercials on YouTube.) And, according to a report, kids don’t understand why people would write such shameful words.

I grew up in a South Florida elementary school where most of my classmates were African American or Hispanic. Few of us cared about our different colors. We were so young, no misguided adults had time to teach us to dwell on such differences. By contrast, I attended an almost all-white high school where classmates sometimes discussed minority-related issues as if writing a thesis. In other words, they had no significant relationships with people of color.

So I don’t blame kids for wondering what the heck is wrong with some adults. This is one situation where a company should not worry about offending a portion of its audience. If part of its audience can’t accept parents whose faces are of different colors, a company need not worry too much about such customers.

We applaud Cheerios for showing a family few others will. But it’s sad if showing a white mom and African American dad is still considered a risk.

Media Training: Businesses Should Keep Stats Simple

Monday, June 17th, 2013

We read an article in The New York Times about a poll. The second paragraph read, “A majority, 57 percent, said that …”

The third paragraph included, “nearly 6 in 10 Americans said they disapproved of …”

The next sentence explained, “However, three-quarters said they approved of the …”

The article began by describing the poll results using three different methods. But we believe businesses should stay consistent and stick with one way in communicating statistics to the media. During media training, we watch clients want to share powerful statistics to help hammer home a key message. But statistics also can confuse an audience and lose significance. We understand someone may want to avoid repeatedly using the word “percentage.” But comparing, for example, 50% to 75% instead of comparing 50% to three-quarters simply seems more effective. Why force your audience to do any extra math? Keep it simple.