3 Signs You’ve Hired a Horrible Media Trainer

1) Tells War Stories. Years ago, when ex-journalists became media trainers they would spend a full day or even two days revealing the mysteries of their craft. The journalist sometimes spent a full morning talking about how great an interviewer he or she was and revealed “behind the scenes” secrets of interviews with famous people.

Sometimes the media trainers would show a funny video from the Bob Newhart show of the affable doctor being cornered with tough questions from a TV host. It was all very entertaining but not very useful.

Clients today are busy people and not as star-struck with the media as they were in the past. A good media trainer today talks about interview objectives, message development and reporters’ agendas and then gets you to practice specific techniques. Most of my sessions are with small groups for a half-day, sometimes with a couple hours of follow up practice at a later date.

2) Tells You to Ignore the Questions. Going straight to a key message and repeating it over and over just doesn’t work anymore. It makes reporters cranky and they might even do something nasty like string all your answers together to make you look foolish. This trick is often used on politicians.

I tell my clients to listen very carefully to the question, answer the essence of it and look for a connection to their own message. I show them ways to appear to be answering the question. Although you can’t ignore the question, that doesn’t mean you have to provide an exhaustive response. Sometimes the easiest way to answer a reporter is with a simple yes or no. It can also sometimes catch them unprepared for their next question.

3) Beats You up With a Tough Interview. The theory used to be that the toughest interview you ever had was in media training and if you could survive that you’d survive anything. Don’t believe it. A media trainer who goes hard core on you right away is just showing off.

Media training should teach you a skill, not replicate an unpleasant experience. People learn when something is hard but accomplishable. If it’s too difficult they shut down and tend to avoid the situation. Of course if it’s too easy they’re not prepared for the tough interview.

Over the years I’ve had many people approach me with trepidation because of a bad previous training experience. A good media trainer should help you understand and practice the techniques and then leave you confident that you can execute them in a real interview.

Once you get the hang of things, a good media trainer will definitely turn up the heat but never give you more than you can handle. Unless you’re being arrogant.

 

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3 Comments

Filed under Communication, Media, Messaging

3 responses to “3 Signs You’ve Hired a Horrible Media Trainer

  1. Great blog, Ken. I must admit, I still do #3 from time to time (though I don’t beat people up – but I do prepare them for the actual questions we all know they’re going to get, so their answer is at the ready….)

    This reminds me of a well-known mommy blogger (you know, the kind that works with big brands like Pampers and Fisher Price and has been on Oprah) who, at a conference I was at this past spring, spent her entire “tips and tricks” session either telling her own war stories (of being on Donny and Marie and Oprah, natch) or disrespecting other mommy bloggers who dared to go on TV without doing their hair or makeup. Nobody learned a thing and I’m pretty sure a few of the bloggers in the audience actually felt bad about themselves afterwards).

  2. Thanks for the comment Lesli. It’s true that we have to be ready for the predictable tough questions but I always like to leave my clients confident rather than fearful.

    Your conference speaker sounds dreadful. Unless they make a very specific point, war stories are as tedious as the humble brag i.e. “I was so nervous at my TED talk because I had to follow Bono”

  3. Great points Ken. I am astounded that people still use the Bob Newhart clip, but they do. Some even ask me for it. The “tough” interviews are usually appropriate for politicians, not the typical business person.

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