Let’s Change the Recipe
Over the years, I’ve done my share of media training, and in the course of that, I’ve gotten very familiar with how other media trainers operate and what we all have collectively accepted as conventional wisdom when it comes to media training.
For instance, find one media trainer who does not teach you to speak in sound bites, and I’ll … well … I don’t know what I’ll do, but whatever it is it will be unlikely, because media trainers teach you to speak in sound bites.
Further reinforcing this “wisdom” is the reason many clients come to us for training. More often than not, when someone has come to me for media training it has been because:
a) they were faced with an imminent crisis;
b) they were faced with a probable crisis; or
c) they were faced with a possible crisis.
Of course, there is a d) which is when some organizations keep a list of things they need to do periodically with new leaders, managers, or as part of annual workshops or meetings. But those tend to be proportionately fewer than the crisis-centric ones.
This is a reflection of the mindset that media training is a tool for damage control and not a potent marketing and branding weapon.
In that spirit, it would probably come as no surprise then that more often than not, the foremost goal of much media training is to make sure the spokesperson stays out of trouble. To make sure the spokesperson stays on message and does not deviate and does not blunder a media interviewing opportunity. In that sense, media training tends to be an insurance policy, not a marketing tool.
Some organizations I’ve known consider it a bonus if the spokesperson not only doesn’t screw it up, but actually sounds good and puts the organization’s best foot forward.
It’s Time for a Change
But this is 2020 and the media training we’ve come to know and love has not evolved with the times. It has to change and it hasn’t.
Here’s what it has to do. It has to teach you to be interesting. It can’t settle for helping you avoid trouble. It has to help you maximize whatever speaking gifts you have to bring out the interesting qualities in yourself, and in doing so, the interesting qualities of your organization and its message.
It’s not enough to simply stay on message and stay out of trouble. It’s imperative to craft and deliver interesting and compelling messages that make your viewers or listeners want to know more…about you…about your organization…about your message.
Good media training today has to emphasize how to create interesting messages and wrap those messages into interesting stories that can be told in a series of sound bites, or for longer form media like podcasts, in “story bites.”
But that’s the technical aspect of it. If you’re a media training participant, you need to hope that your media training session teaches you how to share more of yourself, your own personality, the things that make you … you. Since you are the messenger, you can’t separate yourself from the message. So, the best media training will help you tap your own personal strengths and bring those into the interview as assets, not potential liabilities.
Audiences can be surprisingly empathetic to someone who they like and relate to, so how do you get to that point? The first step is to be yourself and that means not trying to be perfect.
Acting directors and producers like to describe this as exposing your own vulnerabilities, but I have yet to meet a media trainee who wants to hear that. They naturally want to avoid anything even remotely tied to the “v” word.
But the truth is, the goal for a good media interview is to connect at an emotional level, and to that you must be relatable. To be relatable, you need to let your viewer or listener in to get to know the real you. The pathway to that, in a business sense, is your story and how your story intertwines with your organization’s story.