Media Training Tips with Rachel Friend

I’m always happy to answer questions about what we do.  Here are some questions I’m commonly asked ….

1) Is media training just about ‘the interview’ for you? If not, what else should people understand?
Media training covers a whole raft of issues and skills, from understanding what constitutes a story and makes news, to adjusting key messages to suit an audience, all the way through to developing the skills and confidence to manage a news pack at a press conference. Every session I run is different and tailored to meet the needs of the client I’m working with.
2) What are the key misconceptions/mistakes you see from people before media training?
I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who will sit down to be interviewed without spending any time thinking about why they’ve agreed to be interviewed and what they’d like to get out of the media opportunity.  I think many people also underestimate the skill of simply being able to tell their story in a meaningful and entertaining way.
3) What are the key messages/skills you try to focus on?
This will depend on the brief and the experience of the person I’m training but it always comes back to objective and audience.  Really understanding what you are trying to get out of each media opportunity and who you are talking to.
4) Editorial coverage has often been deemed to be worth Three times (x3) the value of the comparable advertising space.  Do you subscribe to that?  Do you think it’s worth more or less than that?
I think it’s difficult to put a value on editorial space – some would argue that it’s priceless.  As an example if you think about an advertisement for a bank placed on SKY News versus a segment with a banking expert talking to Peter Switzer about changes  in superannuation, I’d suggest that viewers will be far more engaged by the interview and more likely to remember the ‘expert’ . (Provided of course they’ve been well trained!)
5) Who should do the interview?   CEO, PR person, expert?  Depends?
This very much depends on the situation.  In the event of a crisis, usually the CEO needs to be visible and seen to be taking charge.  PR practitioners will often facilitate and organize the opportunity but not usually take centre stage.  Within an organisation there might be opportunities for a number of people to act as “expert commentators” and share the load a bit.
6) How should someone go about choosing the right media trainer for them? 
I would look at their breadth of experience.  Do they have experience across all forms of media?  i.e print, radio and television?  I’d also look at the trainer’s testimonials and client list.  Once you’ve selected a couple you are interested in make sure you call them.   Find out more about their sessions, what they will cover and how much they charge.
7) Do you see other media trainers doing or focusing on things that you don’t agree with / that you prefer to do differently?  
The feedback I frequently hear  from clients is that other trainers really focus on crisis training and frighten people from ever wanting to talk to a journalist.  Of course there is a time and a place for worst case scenario training but most of the time journalists are looking for stories, for new information and for expert comment from people who are commonly referred to in the industry as “good talent”.  (To be described as good talent means you are articulate, engaging and not afraid to offer an opinion where appropriate.)
8) What are your key recommendations for dealing with a crisis?
We now live in a 24/7 news cycle.  Social media means that news travels fast.  In the event of a crisis I think it’s imperative that the company’s spokesperson is visible and available.  During the Queensland Floods, most networks provided continuous coverage – the Premier Anna Bligh regularly updated journalists and the public, sometimes hourly.  She was widely praised during this time because she was visible, available and empathetic.

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