There is something that sounds inherently ‘old media’ about the idea of media training. My impression from clients is that media training initially conjures up images of how to look good on TV and avoid withering under Mike Wallace’s steely glare (hint: Wallace has mostly retired. The bigger danger is being seduced by Anderson Cooper’s baby blues).
I recently had the opportunity to update my media training session. Some observations on translating this ‘traditional media’ exercise into today’s media environment:
- All media are “online media”. This is especially true of daily newspapers, which, for the most part, are already online media. What this means is that you can expect the story to appear much faster, and that story may be accompanied — and enhanced — through rich multimedia. The same is true for local TV news.
- The core distinction among media is “professional journalists” and the individuality of everyone else. The distinction most relevant to a spokesperson is whether they’re being interviewed by a professional news person — be they reporter, editor, blogger, video host or all of the above — or a dedicated amateur with utterly unique interests, audiences, standards and styles.
- Spokespeople should expect more use of ‘raw’ interviews. Where before, media training emphasized “headlining” and “flagging” key messages to encourage use of their soundbites, spokespeople must now consider that a more raw, unedited version of their interview will likely find its way online, where they will benefit from a more conversational, “human” style.
- More than ever, media training is message training. You can only do so many mock interviews to prepare for so many kinds of interviews, and most spokespeople aren’t so sophisticated actors to control their facial expressions optimally for online video interviews. The best media training has always been built around helping a spokesperson master their messages. From message mastery, they learn techniques to avoid traps and ensure that those messages are heard.
- The best spokespeople in new media will translate their message into conversations. In other words, spokespeople must go beyond Kissinger’s arrogant “who has questions for my answers” and be ready to engage an audience whose questions will run the gamut from ignorant to insightful to insulting. They need to be ready to fire off answers in online chats, write for forums and Facebook, answer questions by video, and be ready to have audio from phone interviews uploaded to blogs.
That said, the need to be able to stare down a press conference or TVV news magazine star isn’t going away anytime soon. More than this, organizations need to identify spokespeople who can handle the need to be engaging, open, conversational and involved — and prepare them.