What do you do when a journalist comes knocking on the door because there’s been a crisis that impacts your organisation? Do you just slam the door and say nothing or do you say “no comment”? Do you hand out a written statement or call a press conference?
These are just some of the questions we get asked by our clients and contacts around dealing with the media, and the best way to approach interviews, whether that be in a crisis or not, to ensure a positive outcome. Get it wrong and you miss the chance to promote your organisation and get your key messages across, or worse, face major reputational damage.
Our team were delighted to be invited to provide media training to the Business Alliance based in Yorkshire last month – a group of 15, like-minded, owner-managers who meet monthly to share information, ideas, issues and opportunities related to their businesses. The group was formed over 15 years ago, with several of its founding members remaining heavily involved in the Alliance today, and therefore the group were comfortable in one another’s company and not afraid to get stuck in and contribute to the discussion.
This was the first media training session run by our team which I’ve attended since joining Social Communications, and therefore I was both intrigued and excited when I was asked to join our Manchester Director Diana MacCarthy in delivering the session.
With over 20 years’ experience in communications and after spending several years as a journalist in the early years of her career, Diana is well-versed in the nuances of the media landscape and the principles of PR best practice. It’s safe to say our group of media trainees were in safe and experienced hands with Diana taking the lead.
The session was structured to give members of the group confidence in dealing with the media, whether that be broadcast appearances or digital and print interview opportunities. Attendees were taught strategies and tactics to keep ownership of interviews, to ensure their corporate narrative is seeded, and reputation positioned and protected.
After kicking off the session with an introduction to the media and PR industry and doing some digging into our trainee’s previous experience of interviews, we quickly got into the tactics behind owning and ‘bossing’ a media interview. There are a range of techniques which business spokespeople can employ when being interviewed – with the most simple being planning and preparation, whether that be researching the journalist, developing a strong narrative or swotting up on your facts and figures, it’s all equally important in ensuring a successful interview.
This insight session was followed by thought-provoking scenario planning and interview drills, which required some brave volunteers, to put the tactics around body language, tone and delivery into practice. This activity is a hugely important part of any media training session as it ensures those in attendance are pushed outside of their comfort zone so they are confident and composed should they find themselves in a media interview scenario in the future.
The main aim of the training was to inform and build confidence, with the learnings designed to be deployed for both proactive and reactive opportunities. Due to the breadth of business leaders, working across a range of sectors, who are part of the Business Alliance, the session was designed to be flexible and fluid and provide the fundamental principles around dealing with the media. However, our team have expertise across a diverse range of sectors including property, education, infrastructure, energy and housing, and therefore can tailor these sessions to meet specific sectors, as we have done in the past.
Ensuring your business comes over cool, clear and coherent is the true demonstration of a successful media interview.