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How to take on the media (and live to tell about it)

By Lisa Goldsberry

Spokesperson and media training can make all the difference

be-a-master-spokespersonThe media has tremendous power in America. They help shape popular opinion, decide what is and isn’t newsworthy enough for you to know about and they are permitted to go to practically any length in pursuit of a story. No wonder the press is often referred to as the Fourth Estate.

With so much authority and influence, it is natural for you to be apprehensive if you have to go up against the media. However, with the right training and guidance, you can approach any media situation with the confidence and the assurance that comes from knowing you’ve done your best and made a good impression.

How to take on an interview

Before the interview, it is important to develop several key points that you want to convey. Then, during the interview, seek out opportunities to keep reiterating these main messages. For example, if you want to stress that your new product will benefit professionals who work in high-rise buildings, make sure you say that more than once.

Even if the reporter doesn’t ask a specific question about your main point, offer it anyway. You can say something like, “What people should really know about the product is…” or “The most important aspect of my company is…”

Answer questions simply and directly. The more extraneous information you provide, the easier it is for your real message to get lost.

Steer clear of saying “no comment.” While it may be fine to do in the movies, in real life, it makes it seem like you have something to hide.

Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know the answer to a question. Saying “I don't know, but I can get the answer for you” will get you in a lot less trouble than giving a wrong answer or one that is not entirely truthful.

Some people get nervous during an interview and begin rambling on and on to fill a silent moment or resort to talking in vague, industry-specific terminology to feel more comfortable. Avoid this behavior.

If the interview is for television, there are additional tips to remember:

  • The microphones are always on until someone comes to remove them and tells you that the interview is over. Always keeping this in mind is the best way to prevent those embarrassing open mic snafus.

  • When you are unsure, ask where you should be looking, i.e. at the camera or at the interviewer.

  • Don’t fidget – it can make you appear overly nervous. Gesturing with your hands is fine if that’s natural for you, but if not, fold them. The audience will be able to tell.

How to handle “bad news” interviews

There comes a time in the life of every company when it must report bad news. When this happens to your company, there are three basic rules to follow:

  • The news should come from you.

  • The news should come quickly.

  • The news should be true.

Letting the media take control of the story first is a big mistake. Take the lead, confidently provide your statement and end the interview.

How to become a master spokesperson

Most of us were not born eloquent orators. Sure, you may be fine leading a business presentation or giving a speech, but a media interview is different. The smartest way to become a master spokesperson and ace any interview is to hire experts who can help you.

At Axia Public Relations, our professionals can provide you the spokesperson and media training you need to master any interview or news event. This can be especially important for new hires or even to give old pros a refresher lesson. Give us a call before your next interview.

Lisa Goldsberry is a writer for Axia Public Relations with more than 15 years of public relations experience. She specializes in business, higher education and technology PR. Connect with Axia Public Relations on Twitter at @axiapr.

photo credit: bettina n via photopin cc

Topics: media relations, public relations, PR tips

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