Media Training: Misunderstood
I’ve been a media spokesperson on a wide range of subjects since the mid-1990s, from technology to genealogy to genetics.
TV, radio, press, online… I’ve done them all.
I love the challenge of a live broadcast and the equally invigorating challenge of a recorded interview.
Early on in my career I was sent on a media training course and I found it to be invaluable. I learned how to see my interview from the audience’s perspective, the importance of sticking to just a few key messages and of getting my main point in as early and clearly as possible.
What no media trainer ever told me was to speak from a script, evade direct questions or be untruthful.
I listen to local radio and have appeared live on a number of shows many times. I love the challenge of live interrogation, particularly when the interviewer is smart, incisive and keen to get to the truth. I never evade questions or try to hide anything – I simply don’t see the point. Live radio is a priceless opportunity to put the truth across in an interesting and engaging manner. This is what I and, I’m sure, other media trainers train professional spokespeople to do.
Yet increasingly I hear radio journalists complain that apparently evasive and uncharismatic interviewees are the product of media training.
I don’t believe it. I really don’t.
In fact, I suspect the opposite is true. These subjects probably haven’t received quality media training and are so lacking in skills that they are afraid to say the wrong thing for fear of bringing their industry/company/organisation into disrepute.
Media trainers aim to draw the very best from interview subjects. We help spokespeople to express themselves clearly, think on their feet and respond to unexpected or challenging questions with charm, clarity and honesty.
Why would any broadcaster think a media trainer would encourage a spokesperson to sound or look ridiculous?
If a spokesperson isn’t giving you the type of response you want, my money would be on nerves, low confidence and lack of experience not tactics. A skilled spokesperson can handle any question with aplomb, never losing their sense of humour.
Broadcasters, you’re mistaken. The purpose of media training is not to avoid answering your questions. We would encourage our trainees to simply decline the interview if that was our objective. Our role is to encourage spokespeople to be bold, clear and honest – to give you fantastic programme content while giving the public and shareholders accurate information and incisive opinion.
There is no conspiracy. Ultimately, we all want the same thing.