Media Training: A Primer

With all this talk about the media and social media, it occurs to me that a little media training could be very useful to all of you networkers out there.  I have been the beneficiary of formal media training (thank you, Sprint!) and have even had occasion to appear on television, be interviewed by numerous newspapers and magazines (print and online), have in-depth discussions with industry analysts and, as I told you on Friday, even speak on the radio.  In all cases, as a result of my media training, I was prepared to engage with the interviewer, stay on message, respond to questions in a way that positioned my “product” the way that I wanted it to be perceived, etc.  Even if you are not with a company that offers formal media training (if you are, please take advantage of it!) or can’t afford to hire a consultant to assist you, here are a few tips that I believe will be of help to you in your networking efforts:

  1. Focus on a few key messages.  Many media experts suggest that a few means up to and absolutely no more than three core messages.  If you try to communicate more than three points, your audience will feel so overwhelmed that they will actually hear nothing.  What you say should be stated rather simply, in positive terms.  And, you should say your most important point first so that it does not get buried or lost in the discussion.  If you are wondering where your key messages will come from, I refer you back to your elevator pitch (see my November 8th post, “Be Prepared”). 
  2. Stay on point.  Related to point #1 is to stay on point.  I learned early in my media training that, with all due respect to the interviewers, their questions are not important to the interview.  Rather, it is the subject that is important.  If you find that the line of questioning or discussion is going down the wrong path, bring it back to the topic that you want to discuss.  Go back to your three key messages.  But, please don’t avoid the question – answer it, truthfully, but do so in a way that gets back to what you want to discuss.
  3. Be conversational.  The more familiar you are with your own story – with your own three main points, the more easily you will be able to talk about them.  The dialogue will simply flow, irrespective of the way the questions are asked or the order in which they are posed.  And, the word “story” is important here… tell a story in your dialogue.  You don’t want to merely read out a list of key points.  Rather, engage your audience in the story, bring them along for the ride, help them to feel like they were there.
  4. Use silence as your friend.  As Shakespeare suggested, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”  Be brief in your remarks, state them in simple, easy to understand terms that are not overly esoteric in nature.  Once you have stated what you had hoped to, simply stop talking!  Give your interviewer (i.e. networking contact) an opportunity to respond, to digest what you have just said, to think about his/her next question.  Remember, it’s a conversation, not a speech.
  5. Prepare your interviewer.  If you have been taking my suggestions to heart over the past couple of weeks, in the realm of networking (rather than preparing for media interviews), you have already prepared your “interviewer.”  To set the tone for the discussion, you sent him/her a brief email introduction, you stated who you are and where you received his/her contact details, you described why you thought it would be a good idea to get together and you shared a very brief bit of background on yourself.  And, you may have followed up the night before the meeting with a confirmation of your meeting time and place and attached a resume, bio or overview of your company for background purposes.  You get the idea. 
  6. Dress for success (be professional), wear a smile (think of Lil’ Orphan Annie), go in confident and exude a positive attitude.  Your energy level will set the tone for the interview.  ‘nuf said.

Please note, there is a whole lot more to media training.  Though I’ve bastardized the process by highlighting only a few key items, I do so knowing that most of you will not go down the path of full training.  Please simply accept the above listed suggestions that I pulled from my own media training as useful to the networking process.

(Note:  This type of training can be so valuable.  Just to flesh it out a bit more, I could have, for example, suggested that you have yourself filmed doing a mock interview then watch it back to see how you look, what filler words you tended toward (“um,” “uh,” “good question”) so that you could avoid using them the next time, ensure that you were not fidgeting, etc.  If you are so inclined, please do so – it’s nerve wracking, but so very helpful!)

I hope that these three days devoted to the media have been useful to you.  Tomorrow, we leave media and turn our attention to more entrepreneurial discussion points as Global Entrepreneurship Week kicks off with tens of thousands of events going on all around the world; perfect venues to grab Coffee or Lunch with new friends and old.

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