Keep Your Story in the Story: Why Media Training is Essential

by Megan Shroy

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We’ve all seen them—media interviews gone wrong. And they can be a train wreck. So painful to watch… but you just can’t look away.

2016 was filled with media gaffes. Who can forget libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson responding with “what is Aleppo” when asked a question about Syria? Or Ryan Lochte losing all credibility after falsely claiming to be robbed at gunpoint during the 2016 Rio Olympics and then giving a less-than-satisfying explanation and apology? Or how the CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Heather Bresch, further incited the company’s public relations crisis over the rising cost of EpiPens by seeming to shift the blame to the health care system?

Each of these individuals went on camera to tell a particular story. But because of a lack of preparation, or not offering an authentic and credible explanation for something that happened, these stories took on a life of their own.

In today’s world of 24/7 news, social media and the opportunity to capture everything with a camera phone, even the most seemingly non-threatening media opportunity can turn sour instantly. That’s why it is critical for organization leaders to have proper media training. 

Done right, media training goes beyond just message preparation and question and answer sessions.

To ensure any media interview goes off without a hitch, leaders need to be trained on all of the following:

Key messages, including how to explain the organization’s main points using plain language, and avoiding acronyms or technical jargon;

Visual delivery (for on-camera interviews), including how to stand or sit, facial expressions (remember the fallout after Chris Christie stood wide-eyed behind Donald Trump during a campaign speech?), wardrobe and appropriate eye contact with the reporter;

Vocal delivery, including voice inflection, speed of talking and eliminating “filler” words that can negatively impact credibility; and

Tips for neutralizing tough questions and bringing the conversation back to the key messages.

I am a firm believer that all leaders of organizations should receive formal media training, especially those that may be called upon for media interviews. At Approach Marketing, we customize all of our media trainings, and bring in former journalists to do on-camera practice sessions with executives to fully prepare them for media interviews with print, TV and radio outlets. 

After all, a media interview is an opportunity to tell your story and put your best foot forward. We work with our clients to help them show up to every interview prepared and polished, avoid the train wreck and keep their story in the story.