Media Training for the New Year

Dec 22, 2011

Learning from the Best and Worst of 2011

With 2012 just around the corner, this is the ideal time of the year for individuals and organizations to reflect upon both the successes and missed opportunities of the past year. New Year resolutions are often about building stronger relationships. One of the most critical relationships a business or organization can foster is its relationship with the media – a link that can make or break important messages to key stakeholders.

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Dealing with reporters’ tough questions can seem daunting. But with ample preparation, any person or group can have the ability to confidently face the press and ensure that their perspective is communicated clearly and concisely. Whether you are a newcomer who has never spoken to a reporter before or a seasoned spokesperson that regularly interfaces with the media, professional media training is an irreplaceable tool to hone the skills necessary to effectively communicate a point, purpose or value.

A year of presidential primary campaigning and high profile press conferences has provided many examples of what to do and what not to do when facing journalists. Below are some notable clips that demonstrate the principles of effective media communication strategies. While some may seem comical to an outsider, these instances were probably very sobering for those involved on the PR side.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: LACK OF PREPARATION

This advice might seem obvious, but there have been many examples where candidates, spokespeople or public figures did not adequately prepare themselves before an important debate or interview. Doing your homework on the issues and the people involved is paramount to your ability to answer questions successfully. In this clip, Herman Cain was asked a straight-forward question on whether or not he agreed with President Obama’s actions in Libya. His ensuing silence speaks for itself.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: BEING ARGUMENTATIVE

While the temptation can be strong, arguing or yelling with a reporter certainly does not help you communicate important messages with the public. Every question – tough or not – should be seen as an opportunity to engage and educate rather than a personal attack or embarrassing set-up. In this now-notorious interview, Rachel Maddow attempts to ask candidate Art Robinson basic questions about his platform but cannot seem to get a word in edgewise between his rants and accusations.

WHAT DOES WORK: CONSISTENCY AND CLARITY

The communicative power of clear, simple language cannot be stressed enough. Using technical jargon or references to case studies/examples that may not be familiar to most audiences can be confusing and distracting from important messages. The press conferences held during the infamous hunt for exotic animals let loose in Ohio this year are a good example of crisis communications executed smartly.

WHAT DOES WORK: BRIDGING

A key technique we share with our clients during trainings is the A-B-C strategy: Answer, Bridge, Communicate. Bridging involves the nuanced ability to migrate the discussion from the question asked to the main message. President Obama is a good example of this quality, and uses bridging frequently in his interviews to effectively communicate his policy agenda.

As these examples show, the importance of effective communication through the media cannot be underestimated. Professional media training can provide the skills you need to help your business or organization move to the next level.

Southwest Strategies provides tailored media training workshops that help our clients develop the skills they need to master media appearances and interviews. If you are interested in media training services, contact Alan Ziegaus (aziegaus@swspr.com) or Chris Wahl (cwahl@swspr.com) for more information.

On behalf of the entire SWS family, we wish you Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year.

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