Posts Tagged ‘media training’

Media Training: Prepare For 15 Data Breach Questions

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Video Production

If cybercriminals strike your company, prepare for the following questions from the media:

  1. How significant is the data breach?
  2. How many customers has the data breach impacted?
  3. How many company locations has the data breach impacted?
  4. What security had you put in place to prevent data breaches?
  5. How will the data breach impact sales?
  6. Have you identified the cybercriminals?
  7. When did the data breach occur?
  8. When did you first become aware of a potential breach?
  9. How did the data breach occur?
  10. What steps is the company’s security team taking?
  11. What outside security firms have you hired?
  12. How will your company handle any customers who see fraudulent charges?
  13. Will your company offer customers free identify protection?
  14. What steps should customers take to determine if the data breach impacted them?
  15. Will a company spokesperson appear on camera for an interview?

Media Training: Would You Ask This Question?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Media TrainingDuring 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.

Media Training: Six Points About Ambush Interviews

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014
Media Training

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.

Media Training: Don’t Expect Mercy

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Media Training

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?

5 Media Training Tips From Obama’s Economic Speech

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

President Obama’s economic speech offers media training lessons for business leaders.

YouTube Preview Image


  1. Share stories to help deliver key messages. Don’t just deliver facts.
  2. Explain how issues impact you personally. Don’t speak as simply a business leader.
  3. Use your location to enhance your interviews. Don’t settle for boring offices and conference rooms.
  4. Relay how the topic impacts the local community. Don’t speak in abstract generalities.
  5. Fluctuate your voice and use your hands. Don’t only say the words. Show you’re passionate about them.

Media Training: Joan Rivers Returns With Comic Style

Monday, July 14th, 2014

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. 

YouTube Preview Image

Joan Rivers’ Unfashionable Media Training Moment

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

When media ask tough questions, highlight the positives. Prepare ahead of time. Don’t be caught off guard. Keep your cool. Don’t leave interviews before they are over.

YouTube Preview Image

LeBron The Media Training King

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Media Training KingFew athletes face more critics than LeBron James of the Miami Heat. Few athletes handle the criticism better.

This is one of the first questions a reporter asked LeBron after the Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of the NBA Finals: “LeBron. Because you beat the Spurs in the Finals last year and won two in a row, you think seeds of doubt creep into their minds especially late in the game in the fourth quarter?”

This is one of the most dangerous questions a reporter can ask not only athletes but also businesses. The question cracks open a door for someone to level criticism against or pass judgment on a competitor. Under such circumstances, we’ve watched athletes utter comments that motivate opposing teams to respond passionately on the court or field. We’ve watched executives spew sarcastic remarks about competitors and then later regret their words. During media training mock interviews, businesses often struggle with questions about rivals.

This was LeBron’s response to the question:

“I mean that’s not our concern. All we worry about is what we can control and that’s just how we play the game, how we approach the game both physically and mentally and live with the results.”

Slam dunk! In general, don’t speak about competitors. Let them speak for themselves. Focus on your products and services. Highlighting your company’s strengths and advantages is a better play than trying to score points by breaking down a competitor’s values or ideas. The fact LeBron can calmly draw up such answers after feeling the heat from critics shows why, in this particular instance, he displayed skills of a media training king. For several weeks, reporters have hammered LeBron with questions that would irritate most people and persuade them to lash out. LeBron has stood steady. For businesses, running the right play is not so simple when reporters are playing rough and getting under your skin.

Media Training: AT&T Center’s AC Shot Clock Violation

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

In the NBA, a team must attempt a basket which touches the rim or scores before the 24-second shot clock expires. During Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the AT&T Center in San Antonio needed a shot clock to speed up the pace of releasing a statement.

The Center’s air conditioning broke during Game 1. ABC showed rows of fans fanning themselves. Players discussed the temperatures. For most of the game, the TV commentators discussed the problem regularly and analyzed how the temperatures impacted the players. While this storyline played out on national television, the commentators repeated they were awaiting a statement from AT&T Center.

ABC’s courtside reporter finally relayed the Center’s statement with about 9:38 left in the game. In essence, the statement explained the AC broke and the Center apologized.

This was crisis communications playing out on live television. So what took so long for a facility to craft and release a statement that a rookie PR pro could write? Why were we awaiting a statement? Why wasn’t ABC interviewing courtside someone with the facility who could explain the problem?

When preparing for big, national events showcasing your “house,” you hope people take every precaution to prevent lights from shutting off during the Super Bowl or the AC from breaking during Game 1 of the NBA Finals. But we judge communicators, much like athletes, on how they handle adversity. PR pros should consider setting up their own shot clocks. They can set those clocks for longer than 24 seconds, but the goal is to respond quickly. And if you craft such a statement quickly and a broadcast network continues to tell a national audience it’s awaiting your comment, make a fast break to someone who can get the word out.

Media Training: Sour Note From The Partridge Family

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Media Training

In an episode of The Partridge Family, the 1970s TV sitcom about a musical family, band manager Reuben Kincaid tells the family, “I do know how to handle myself with the press.” The family sits down with Reuben and watches on TV how reporters ambushed him in a parking lot about a sensational magazine article on the family. One of the kids, Danny, supplied the magazine false stories to help publicize the family and Reuben didn’t know about it.

A reporter asked, “How much truth is there in the recent article concerning Shirley Partridge?” Reuben responded, “Article? What article?”

The oldest kid, Keith, watching this on TV, mocks Reuben as being a real pro. Reuben tells him, “I know how to protect my clients.”

Back on TV, the reporter told Reuben the magazine article claims Shirley once ran a school for exotic dancers. At least three microphones were in his face. Reuben snapped back, “You’re kidding! No comment.” The reporter followed up explaining the article also points out Shirley can’t resist men with beards. Reuben began to respond, “I never knew … No comment.”

Shirley, stunned, stands up from the couch and can’t believe Reuben offered a “no comment,” saying Reuben inadvertently made the false information sound true.

Believe it or not, real life often imitates art minus the laugh track, except the people laughing are viewers at home. It is not uncommon for reporters to ambush people in parking lots or outside offices. And frequently those people provide “no comment,” walking or driving away in disgust, providing the exact sensational shot some media want to air.

When reporters catch you by surprise, take a breath and respond, “I don’t have that information at this time. I will be happy to check into it and speak with the appropriate person and get back to you.” Don’t be afraid to explain you don’t have the answer at that very moment. You are not a walking encyclopedia or in today’s terms, a walking Wikipedia. The quickest way to land yourself in trouble is to provide answers when you don’t have them.

Another lesson is the mistake of providing “no comment.” Some of the world’s biggest businesses that we assume hire top marketing people continue to provide media outlets with “no comment” on a regular basis. As Shirley Partridge points out, “no comment,” fair or not, often indicates the claims might be true. There’s always something better to say than “no comment,” even if your words are simply, “Our policy is not to discuss those details publicly, but what I can tell you …”

The media have changed a lot since the early 1970s. But how people respond to them has not. And the results are often no laughing matter.