Media training is still a relatively new field of expertise. That being said, The Ammerman Experience has been one of the pioneers of the industry, providing media training in Houston and around the world since our founding in 1973. We’ve had decades to observe what works and what doesn’t work, and we’ve seen time and time again what can make or break an encounter with the media. Below are some of the most common mistakes we’ve picked up on over our years of media training in Houston and beyond.
And, keep this in mind: although these mistakes are common, the ability to communicate well is a learned skill. Media training can help you to avoid these mistakes.
Media Training Can Help You to Avoid Having Too Many Messages
When you’re dealing with the media, your time is likely very limited and you’ll want to appear transparent and concise. You want to stand apart from competing companies by giving memorable responses rather than the same old cookie-cutter interview. It’s a good idea to have a main point or story that you can consistently bridge back to, because trying to say too much in too short a period of time can easily result in saying little about a lot rather than saying a lot about the most important subject.
As a leading media training company in Houston, we’ve worked with countless clients and we know how they tend to think. Although you may want to share your company’s brand, message, product, goals, ratings, etc. with the audience, you have to be able to stay focused enough to appear coherent and prepared.
Try selecting just one main message to drive home over and over when it is both appropriate and effective to do so – at the beginning and end of the interview, for example. Keep in mind there is an art to balancing how often you endorse your message, or you could end up making the next mistake:
Media Training Can Help You to Avoid Trying Too Hard to Push the Message
Yes, you need to have a central message to tie back to when you’re done wrapping up the finer points of each response. But no, you should not completely ignore or avoid the question for the sake of sounding like a broken record, or a robotic spokesperson that wasn’t prepared for an unscripted inquiry. It is absolutely essential to enter a media interview with a plan of action, but an inability to stray from that plan even for one minute will make you appear inexperienced and untrustworthy.
We all notice when a politician gets asked a question and spends a half hour talking in circles and repeating their campaign slogan. You don’t want to be that person. While reiterating and relating your message to the interview appropriately is something that effective media training promotes, forcing your message in where it doesn’t belong is not only bad form, but can make you seem insensitive or incompetent, which brings us to our next mistake:
Media Training Can Help You to Avoid Reading Straight From the Page
Having a sheet of prepared responses for expected questions is a good, proactive thing to do – and it’s necessary for media statements and other common media encounters. However, being unable to improvise, as mentioned above, can make you seem even less collected than if you’d brought no prepared statements at all. It’s easy to get nervous or caught off-guard by a pushy reporter, but as a company’s spokesperson it’s your job to adapt to that situation. If you’ve ever seen clips from live television interviews gone wrong, the most common theme among them is that one party didn’t know how to react to the unexpected, and made the situation worse by parroting back their prepared statements out of panic.
One possible way to keep yourself from talking your way into a hole is to not prepare an entire statement, but rather a sentence or main theme about your topic. This way, you can talk on the same point you might have otherwise, but you won’t have anything specific to repeat, forcing you to come up with fresher things to say.
The best way, though, is to practice beforehand. Know your message backwards and forwards, and know what questions a reporter might ask to draw you into dangerous conversational territory.
Media Training Can Help You to Avoid Staying in “Business-Mode”
Note: acting like a professional is not a mistake – but appearing to care entirely about your company’s success and not at all about the people that create it and rely on it is. Let’s take, for example, a case where your company has experienced an accident or a crisis of some kind. It doesn’t matter if this is an environmental hazard, a product recall due to safety concerns, or any other form of crisis. You need to protect your company’s reputation while still assuring your stakeholders that the issue will be addressed – and that they can trust you. But, how can you do this?
The answer: by showing that you’re a person and not just a businessperson. Professionalism is an important part of some modes of communication, but the key to earning trust is empathy. During a media encounter, you’ll be judged instantly on how empathetic your communication is. If your audience decides that you don’t care about the people affected, they won’t trust you.
To show empathy, don’t be afraid to be genuine. Sticking to clichés can come off as cold and uncaring. Take the time to express concern for those affected by the crisis, and be honest in your account of what happened. If you don’t have all of the details yet, it’s okay to let your audience know that.
At the end of the day, if you can earn your audience’s trust, your media engagements will be much more fruitful.
Next Steps for Media Training in Houston
Learning to deal with the media can be difficult, but it’s a vital part of any business’ reputation. And, remember: communication skills can be learned.
Becoming familiar with some common mistakes and learning not to make them is a good first step, but nothing beats real hands-on training and experience. If you’re looking for media training in Houston, trusted for decades by companies all over the globe, you’re looking for The Ammerman Experience. Get in touch with us online, or at 281-240-2026 to find out how we can help you and your company learn to communicate well with the media.