People often prepare extensively for news media interviews but sometimes are surprised how much an interviewer does not know. The lesson: Be prepared for anything.
Posts Tagged ‘media training’
Charles Barkley is part of one of the most entertaining on-air TV crews covering the NBA. He’s fun to watch and we appreciate his candid opinions. He’s also not afraid to talk about issues related to race. He raised the issue of race during his recent comments about running back Adrian Peterson, but he committed a foul. When speaking about African Americans in the South and disciplining children, he stated, “Every Black parent in the South is going to be in jail under those circumstances.”
Barkley offers his personal experience, but he doesn’t speak for every African American in the South. When sharing strong opinions with the media, avoid generalizations that place everyone under the same roof.
Here’s a segment of Senator John McCain and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney debating Obama’s foreign policy announcement. When conducting media training, we purposely interrupt people we interview to prevent them from finishing answers, gauge their responses and generally throw them off track. Media training participants often allow us to initially interrupt them and dictate the tone of the interviews. In this segment, we counted that Carney and McCain interrupted each other nine times. (If you’re keeping score, McCain eked out the interruption victory by a 5-4 margin.) Don’t let reporters or critics at an intense meeting interrupt you. Politely and assertively tell people you are happy to answer their questions or allow them to respond, but you want an opportunity to finish your thought. Networks may believe a parade of fierce interruptions makes for good TV. But by allowing someone to consistently interrupt and hand you a verbal beat down, audiences may assume you’re the moment’s loser even if facts proclaim you the winner.
If cybercriminals strike your company, prepare for the following questions from the media:
- How significant is the data breach?
- How many customers has the data breach impacted?
- How many company locations has the data breach impacted?
- What security had you put in place to prevent data breaches?
- How will the data breach impact sales?
- Have you identified the cybercriminals?
- When did the data breach occur?
- When did you first become aware of a potential breach?
- How did the data breach occur?
- What steps is the company’s security team taking?
- What outside security firms have you hired?
- How will your company handle any customers who see fraudulent charges?
- Will your company offer customers free identify protection?
- What steps should customers take to determine if the data breach impacted them?
- Will a company spokesperson appear on camera for an interview?
During media training, we asked a company’s president about customers who called reporters and complained about the business’ service. The company president began his answer by delivering a figure he believes shows most customers are happy with their service. But then he, as if slamming the brakes on a car in a high-speed race, asked a crucial question.
“Can you give me a little more information?” he asked.
Instead of speculating about complaints he wasn’t aware of, he requested further information to look into the specific cases. You can offer a sentence or two about the company as a whole, but don’t start spewing generic sound bites when reporters ask about incidents you don’t know about. Get extra information and look into the situation. This helps prevent you from providing wrong information and shows you care enough to take the time to learn specific details and come up with a solution if necessary. Just because a reporter is racing for answers doesn’t mean you can’t slow things down to get it right. When you later get the details, make sure you follow up with the reporter.
During media training, a department director walked through the doors of a conference room. I turned on a bright light, stuck the camera in her face and began asking a series of tough questions. During this mock ambush interview, I moved the camera around a lot and sometimes pushed it awkwardly close to her face.
- In theory, reporters conduct ambush interviews because all previous efforts to get those crucial interviews were unsuccessful.
- In reality, some media conduct unnecessary ambush interviews because they make for dramatic “good TV.”
- If reporters you don’t know ambush you, stop and politely ask them to identify themselves and the stories they are working on. This creates a less tense atmosphere and gives you a moment to pause, catch your breath and gather your thoughts.
- If reporters ambush you in an awkward or uncomfortable location, don’t be afraid to tell them you are happy to answer their questions but prefer to move to a different area.
- If you are not allowed to answer reporters’ questions, explain why.
- If you ignore reporters who ambush you or act angry and disgusted, they will most likely show this to viewers or describe your actions to readers.
During media training for a business trying to improve its public relations, I asked one of the company’s leaders, as part of a mock interview, to confirm something about his fees. His answer focused on how someone determines those fees, but he didn’t answer my question. I asked my question a second time. His answer focused on why fees vary, but he didn’t answer my question. I asked my question a third time. He explained the information I asked about is possibly true. I asked if I understood correctly that he, as one of his company’s leaders, did not have the definitive information I sought. His answer returned to how someone determines those fees. At this point, I let him off the hook. Some reporters will quickly let you off the hook if you dodge their questions. Other reporters will not give in. Businesses often enter interviews knowing they will not divulge certain information, but continuously dodging questions and hoping reporters show mercy is a PR strategy set to backfire. Plan ahead and either answer the question or explain why you can’t answer it. The third option is my least favorite: Don’t do the interview. Have you seen this awkward type of scenario play out? How would you handle it?
President Obama’s economic speech offers media training lessons for business leaders.
- Share stories to help deliver key messages. Don’t just deliver facts.
- Explain how issues impact you personally. Don’t speak as simply a business leader.
- Use your location to enhance your interviews. Don’t settle for boring offices and conference rooms.
- Relay how the topic impacts the local community. Don’t speak in abstract generalities.
- Fluctuate your voice and use your hands. Don’t only say the words. Show you’re passionate about them.
After walking away from a CNN interview she didn’t like, comedian Joan Rivers jokes about the incident with David Letterman. A media training lesson for politicians and businesses: Don’t go into hiding after controversy. Note: Joan uses some strong language in this video. It is not appropriate for all viewers.