by Alistair Nicholas
October 15th, 2015

A lot of corporate and marketing executives laugh off the need for media training. They tend to think they know their material and that a media interview will be much like speaking at an industry seminar or conference. You’ll get questions but you’ll handle them because you are a good communicator. An interview with a journalist should be a walk in the park, really.

You’ve got to wonder then why so many media interviews featuring business and marketing executives go awry. Why do so many company and brand spokespeople end up looking like they are suffering from chronic foot-in-mouth disease?

At the other end of the extreme are the business and brand executives who are too scared to do media interviews because they have seen too many other executives, good professionals and experts in their industry, come a cropper.

But it is essential to talk to the media to ensure corporate and brand marketing messages get out.

The truth is media interviews do not have to end in tears. The secret to interview success is preparation. Here are three simple steps to preparing for interviews:

  1. Know your messages;
  2. Anticipate difficult questions; and,
  3. Practice responding to the questions, particularly the bouncers that may be hurled your way.

Media training can help with this preparation. It can help you hone your messages; identify the weaknesses and prepare for the hard questions; and, practice responding to them during realistic mock interviews. At Weber Shandwick, for example, we use former journalists during media trainings to ensure an appropriate level of realism.

If you want your message to get out, you need to engage in a conversation with a journalist. At the end of the day, a journalist is just doing his or her job when they ask tough questions. But as long as you have something to say and respect the fact that reporters have questions that they need to ask, your media interview should go well for you.

The alternative is to remain silent. However a line at the end of a broadcast that says “company X declined our invitation to be on the show” never sounds good. If you have nothing to hide, get media trained and get out there. Silence is not always golden, and it definitely won’t help you to build and position your brand or sell a product or service.

Alistair Nicholas is a Senior Advisor in the Corporate and Public Affairs Practice of Weber Shandwick Australia.

Image Credit: Alistair Nicholas

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