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.

In The Black Magazine, Media Training





DOING MEDIA MAY seem like an extracurricular chore to a senior executive, but its impact can be profound. With more media channels than ever before – and news travelling faster than ever before – dealing with perceptions in the marketplace is often a reality an executive cannot avoid.

Take a step back and analyse. Do you and your organisation have the media skills to flourish, let alone survive, in the full glare of the media spotlight? You may have an insurance policy on your building. It makes sense. But these days you also need to consider an insurance policy on your reputation.

You certainly don’t want to wait for the worst-case scenario of a media crisis to find out you’re sinking rather than swimming. Whatever your company is worth, you don’t want it being put through the media shredder and devalued.

Now you find yourself entering the media training maze. Public relations (PR) is not an exact science, being subject to the whims and flows of the daily news cycle, and the same applies to choosing a media trainer.

Just as your business has its unique set of features, so too do those offering to train you in all-important media skills.

So where to start? Let’s begin at most people’s perception of what media training is all about: the interview.




“Media training covers a raft of issues and skills, from understanding what constitutes a story and makes news and adjusting key messages to suit an audience, all the way through to being able to manage a news pack at a press conference,” says Rachel Friend, a well-known face on Australian television screens for many years and current director of Media Friendly out of Sydney.

It’s a theme that echoes among leading media trainers. “We generally split our full-day sessions 50-50 on practical and theory,” says Margaret Lawson from Cole Lawson in Brisbane. “Theory covers everything from news values to a day in the life of a journalist and ethical and legal considerations. Quality media training should deliver an understanding of news, as well as practical skills.”

It’s a good point, because every interview you do will be different. Especially so when you consider a radio talkback interview can go for 15 minutes, while radio news may just want a 15-second comment. Further, a television report might only drop a three-second grab into the story – all of which can influence the way you deliver your message.

Did you proactively go to them (via a media release) or did they come to you, seeking comment on something making waves in your industry? Understanding where the media is coming from and what they’re looking for can dictate whether you get the spotlight exposure or your cross-town rival is seen as the authority.






Many people undertake media training with a high degree of mistrust of the very people they’re hoping to engage and communicate effectively with – the media. Certainly, journalists can hunt in packs, but having a confrontational and negative attitude may not be the best place to start.

For others, it’s the failure to stay on message during an interview. “You don’t want to say anything to a reporter that you don’t want reported,” notes Channel Ten’s Mark Aiston, who runs Adelaide’s Media Insider. “It can mean that what started out as positive news turns into a negative piece.”

Doug Weller, a former ABC journalist and lecturer who operates Corporate Media Services in Melbourne, agrees. “It often comes down to a lack of preparation, and involves the delivery of jargon and acronyms. It’s sloppy and can show lack of confidence, such as failing to make appropriate eye contact during TV interviews.”

All of which leads us back to the need for media training. But just as the interview isn’t the whole story, being trained up for only one type of situation may not be giving you the full range of skills your organisation deserves. If you invest in media training, look to develop a broad set of skills so that you can talk to positive stories, not just learn about putting out fires.




A negative attitude towards the media can actually be amplified by media training. There are organisations that specialise in crisis management courses. If that’s what you’re looking for, fine. But this won’t necessarily equip you to deal with the media in the broadest, most proactive and more positive sense. And not all courses are equal.

In some cases, the operatives can scare you senseless about what can go wrong, complete with cameras in your face from the time you step in the door before an on-screen dissection of everything you’ve done wrong, hour after hour. Then, right at the end, they’ll tell you what you should have been doing. “I know people who have gone along to these sessions and told me it was the worst experience of their lives,” Weller says.

The ability to handle a crisis should certainly be something you’re able to do, but when it comes to choosing a media trainer, think about all the skills you’d like to walk away with. That said, crises are definitely something that loom large in the minds of the trainee. It’s the nightmare of disaster-meets-media that most people fear. What should you do?

Here experts are clear: “Engage the media as quickly as possible,” Weller suggests. “Be honest and open, but don’t feel you need to know everything in a developing situation.” A classic example of this, in practice, was the marathon media performance of then Queensland premier Anna Bligh during the state’s flood crisis of January last year. “We live in a 24/7 news cycle,” Friend says. “The premier regularly updated journalists and the public, sometimes hourly. She was widely praised during this time because she was visible, available and empathetic. In the event of a crisis, it’s imperative the company’s spokesperson is visible and available.”

In terms of your own organisation, who should that person be?






There may be more than one media option on offer within your organisation. It could be the CEO, the head of PR or an expert on the topic in question.

So, who should do the interview? As a general rule, if dealing with a crisis it’s a better look to have the leader assume a leadership role.

Fortunately, a crisis is the exception rather than the rule. If the media is coming to you as a result of a media release, you’ve no doubt already nominated the talent available. If, however, it approaches you for comment on a news development, you need to weigh the knowledge of the person you’re considering against their ability to communicate.

Quite frankly, they may know the subject inside out, but if they don’t look or sound sharp it can be counterproductive for your organisation.




There’s another important variable you need to consider when it comes to media training, and that’s social media. It is a real game-changer. This is because, in many ways, you’re no longer dealing with the media to get to an audience but directly with the audience itself, and you may find that you need to respond to that audience.

Does your company have a Facebook page? Do you send out Twitter updates to your customers? The rise of the internet has been profound and social media can see messages go worldwide in a click.

Weller suggests applying the “Front Page Rule” to anything your people click out: “If you wouldn’t want to see it looking back at you on the front page, don’t say it – and don’t send it.”


Television Media Training

I recently stumbled across this story by Today Tonight.  It profiles a Beauty Therapist who goes by the name of Dr Ilesha Haywood.  Of course suprise, surprise, she is not a Doctor and while she claimed on camera to have a PHD (on Yoga no less) the journalist could find no record of it.

The lessons here are:

1.  Don’t ever lie.

2.  Presume that everything you say on camera will be used.  Once the interview starts there is no use looking to your “minder, publicist or support person” for help.  Watch the story and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

The Beauty Doctor

Social media for athletes

The ABC’s 7.30 has put together a great report on the perils of social media for high profile athletes. The same rules apply to celebrities but further to that we should all remember that what we publish on twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets may have an impact on our own personal brand and the brand of our employer/sponsors or stakeholders.

Watch the segment and then let me know what you think.

Dary and Monk: The Perils of Social Media

Media training. What journalists want.

Not all journalists are confrontational, sensationalist, scaremongers! They don’t all tap our mobile phones, re edit video, quote from mystery “insiders” or make up fanciful stories! Most are honest, hard working people who are looking for breaking news or stories about interesting things, told by interesting people.

There is a time and a place for crisis management. I’m a huge advocate for practice and preparation but media training should not be just about preparing for the “worst case scenario”.

In television and radio in particular, journalists are looking for “good talent”. People who can deliver “great grabs”. (In layman’s terms that means being articulate, charismatic and engaging).

I’m sometimes frustrated when I hear stories about media training companies who run workshops designed to humiliate and frighten their trainees. These poor unsuspecting people, who are unlikely to ever participate in a genuine media interview, suddenly find themselves being verbally whipped by a trainer channelling Mike Munroe or Ray Hadley on a bad day!

Rest assured we can deliver a potent punch when it’s needed. An interviewee can find himself completely out foxed and vulnerable without being part of a dramatic walk in or street chase.

But most journalists want stories. Good stories. Stories with currency. Stories that will reverberate with a wide audience. They are also looking for people who can tell their story with an appropriate side dish of passion, emotion, excitement, credibility and authenticity. People who are ‘mediafriendly’.

Executive coaching. How to really listen.

Listening’s such a simple skill.  It’s easy right?  By definition to listen means “to make an effort to hear something”.

My own listening skills were recently put to the test during a course I attended at Sydney University in Executive Coaching.   The course facilitator suggested that there are four levels of listening: cosmetic, conversational, active and deep listening.

I’d argue that cosmetic listening isn’t really listening at all.  And yet if you think about a lot of the conversations you are involved in day to day, you might be surprised by how often you ‘pretend’ to listen.

In case you are still confused about what I mean let me share an example of cosmetic listening:

It’s school pick up and in the back of my car I have two children engaged in parallel conversations about their day while I’m trying to listen to Richard Glover (ABC Sydney) interview Craig Thomson.  At the risk of damaging my reputation as a caring mother I confess to nodding vigorously at both children while increasing the volume on my radio just a couple of decibels.  It’s only when my six year old exclaims “mummy you are not listening to me” that I realize my cosmetic listening is just not cutting the mustard, I turn Richard down and engage in some “conversational” and “active” listening.

Before we go further let me define the four levels of listening:

Cosmetic:  As per my example.  Bad mother!

Conversational:  Plays out like a game of table tennis.  The listener waits his turns or seizes a gap to get involved in the exchange.  Think of all those conversations you have with friends over a coffee or a beer.

Active:  the listener will ask questions, empathize, nod to show their engagement and probe for more information.  If you’re in a healthy relationship this might apply to those more serious conversations you have with your partner over a work issue or a family dilemma.

Deep:  Those conversations that don’t rely on words.  Where the listener is using all his senses to understand what is being said.  If we’re honest most of us probably don’t engage in deep listening very often.  It can be really difficult to sit quietly and just listen.

But consider this:

Silence empowers the listener.  That uncomfortable gap in conversation will often provide us with more insight and information than 10 minutes of animated conversation.  Most of us are afraid of silence and find it uncomfortable, but if we get over the discomfort and show that we are waiting, prepared to listen, the silence is often the pre-ample to the opening.  For the person doing the talking, it’s often a point of decision making.  Will I take the plunge and reveal what I am thinking?  As a good listener we need to feel at ease with this space and use it to reinforce the trust that comes with sharing inner thoughts.

Silence is also a time to use our other senses.  Focus on your conversation partner’s posture; are their hands clasped tightly?  Are they nervously fiddling or sitting on their hands?  Take the time to make sure your own body posture is relaxed yet open.  Unfold your arms, lean in a little or lean back.  Don’t fidget or check your watch or phone.  Make sure that it is clear all attention is currently directed to the person you are communicating with.  When they start talking, don’t interrupt.  Let it flow.

While I think we’d all agree on the value of ‘being heard’ I’d argue very few of us are good listeners.  For most of us, this kind of deep listening doesn’t come naturally.  It’s a real skill.

Love to know your thoughts.



Presentation skills and tips.

If you have trouble with public speaking rest assured you’re not alone.  Incredibly we rate public speaking as our number one fear ahead of flying, spiders and heights!  Here are the top 4 mistakes we see at our workshops:

  1. Powerpoint slides crammed with text and detailed graphics.  You know that old saying “A picture tells a thousand words?”  Powerpoint is designed to be a visual aid.  It’s not supposed to frame a 500 word essay.
  2. The presenter turning his back on his audience to read his slides.  It’s never appropriate to turn your back and remember your audience can read too!  If you’ve been asked to do a presentation then that means PRESENT your topic to your audience.
  3. The presenter completely glued to his notes.  Eye contact is the most effective way of engaging  an audience.  Remember to look at your audience.
  4. Forgetting to prepare an “end”.  Most people seem to understand the importance of starting strongly but have absolutely no idea how they’ll finish their presentation.   No one enjoys a story that doesn’t end properly.  Leave your audience wanting more and finish on a high.

The really good news is that improving your presentation skills is easy – seriously!  I see huge improvement after just one training session.  Nothing beats proper preparation and practice.  Try it!


Media training with Mediafriendly. What makes us different?

Senior media trainers Rachel Friend and Judy Goldman have worked across print, radio and television extensively.  They continue to freelance as producers and journalists to ensure their contacts are current and that they are up to date on what journalists are looking for.

Rachel also has the invaluable experience of acting as a corporate spokesperson for companies including Olay, Dettol, Canon and Stayz.   She can speak from first-hand experience about how to develop and then deliver key messages that will stick.

Mediafriendly is different from other training agencies because our focus is not on preparing for the worst case scenario at every turn.  Of course we will challenge you and ask you the tough questions if that’s appropriate.  We will research your business and industry to ensure we understand the issues and questions you are likely to be asked.  But we will also spend time developing your skills as story tellers.  Depending upon the opportunity, most journalists are looking for great stories.  They want new information or expert comment to help them fill their column space, radio program or television report.

At Mediafriendly, we will help you prepare for interviews so that your story is published and doesn’t end up on ‘the cutting room floor’.

Tips for radio interviews.

What’s your advice to someone doing a radio interview for the very first time?

I’d say just go in prepared with some really good stories and be yourself.  For example if you are a first time author who’s come in to talk about your new book have some anecdotes ready about why you decided to write the book, your inspiration and how it all came about.  If you know the announcer hasn’t read the book then take the bull by the horns and tell us about the book.  Have your messages and your stories ready.  Otherwise you can find yourself coming out of the interview thinking oh god I only got to mention the book once and didn’t talk about anything relevant.  Take the bull by the horns and tell your story.

Advice for getting your key message across without it sounding like a big sales pitch?      

Well don’t make it sound like a big sales pitch and don’t take yourself too seriously.  Honestly some people just take it way too seriously.  You need to be able to get your message across and have a bit of fun with it.  I mean that’s the trouble with a lot of people who get interviewed – that no matter what they are asked they stay on message – it’s like the politicians who come on with their  boring slogans and catch phrases.  “We’re moving forward” or “it’s time for change”.  It’s a huge turn off.

What makes someone you are interviewing really good talent?

It’s pretty simple but the best interviews are with people who are comfortable just telling their story and being themselves and I think the audience really appreciates that.  If we’re all having fun and it’s a great chat then it’s far more likely that the listeners are also enjoying it.  And if the listeners are enjoying themselves then they’re more likely to remember you and your product or whatever it is you’re trying to sell.

Is there an advantage to actually going into studio?

Yes absolutely although I know that’s not always possible.  Sometimes it’s just not practical.  The guest might be interstate or overseas and have to do the interview over the phone but I like to have eye contact with the people I’m interviewing…. not just because that obviously helps build rap ore but also because there’s nothing worse in radio than talking over the top of guests but unfortunately when it’s a phone interview and your guest can’t see you sometimes there’s no way around that.  They can’t see you gesticulating that you want to move on or interrupt them so sometimes you just have to cut in. But I much prefer it when a guest can come in.

What are interview no no’s?  Are there habits or things interviewees do that really tick you off?

I’d say when a guest mentions their product over and over again.  That’s a major turn off.  I think announcers also get really annoyed when a guest talks about other media outlets or appearing on other programs.  For example I might ask a question and the guest might answer by saying “oh I was asked that on the ABC earlier this morning or Larry from the Morning Show asked me that same question. “  Hard to believe people would do that but they do.   Also journalists don’t like it if they try to ask a question in a different way and the guest refers to her earlier answer by saying “like I said before”.  That’s really annoying and a no no.

Jonathan Coleman has worked in both TV and Radio for over 30 years in Australia and the UK.  Jono started his career on Triple J and Triple M and went on to perform the Jono and Dano Show which was broadcast to a national audience both on radio and television.   You can catch Jono every weekend on Weekend Sunrise as the program’s movie reviewer and he continues to work with Ian (Dano) Rogerson on radio.  For more information or to ask Jono a question go to


The day I was eaten by Dawn French.

It was 1993.  I was 23 and working in London as a reporter for a program called London Tonight.  Each day I’d be sent off to interview big name celebrities like Calvin Klein, Emma Thompson, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Kenneth Branagh and then there was one very memorable encounter with Dawn French and her Absolutely Fabulous co writer Jennifer Saunders.

It was possibly the most humiliating interview experience of my career.  They ridiculed me in front of a dozen other waiting journalists – I was like a rabbit completely trapped in the headlights of an oncoming car.  When the ordeal was over I limped out, wondering what the hell just happened.

Back at the edit suite all the crappy name calling, rude remarks and moments of total disregard for me, novice reporter, were cut out.  What went to air was safe and boring.

At the time I remember a part of me wanting to run the interview in it’s entirety.  To show Dawn and Jennifer for real.  Complete bitches.

Granted my questions were probably incredibly pedestrian, I looked about 12 years old and I had never interviewed comedians before.  But still they were like two lionesses sizing up their defenceless prey and make no mistake they went in for the kill!

My big lesson – comedians often don’t like being interviewed.  Don’t arrive with a list of questions just go with the flow.

But back to Dawn – Mumbrella reports that Dawn is about to start selling us Coles Flybuy points.  I guess she must be popular here – just not with me.