Isn’t Experience Required to do Media Training?
I’m always amazed at the individuals and some of the companies that offer media training, yet have no practical experience in print or broadcast news. I know of one so-called “media trainer” who claims to have been a writer for the LA Times – yes, for the food section. Some others I know of worked in news – as bookers. Those are the ones who schedule the guests for the interview done by someone else. Some may have actually worked in television news as reporters, even for the networks. They have asked the tough questions of others, but have they ever had to face their own kind and answer those questions on the OTHER side of the microphone as the media spokesperson? Have they ever formulated a communications agenda, crafted the message, prepared the visuals and then delivered THEIR message to the interviewers, or set up a news conference during a crisis and had to face a horde or reporters and cameras, or coached others in their organization to help them prepare for media appearances before the cameras? Again, I imagine very few have that type of experience. When choosing a media training company or an individual media trainer, carefully examine their credentials. How much actual experience do they have in a broadcast news center or for a newspaper? (And not the weekly shopping journal.)
Several former television news anchors venture forth as media trainers after their career has closed making love to that little red light each evening. They were once very good at reading teleprompter, and occasionally conducting a soft interview on the news set. I did scores of “in set” interviews when I anchored news and did election coverage talking with the candidates. I did many other media interviews on a public affairs program I produced and hosted each week. But I did hundreds more in my career as a reporter – interviewing subjects on a myriad of subjects for hundreds of news stories. The intensity of the questioning often depended on the subject matter, the person’s command of the subject and his or her confidence level, as well as the significance and impact of the story – perhaps it was a crisis event. Those interviews ranged from the “lay down” interview, the “tell me about…,” to the “have the Pampers handy.”
It is essential to be prepared for all types of interviews for all types of media. You must have a concise, comprehensive and comprehensible communications agenda (your message) and be able to deliver that on-camera with confidence and credibility.
Therefore, when looking at media training for your organization, begin by asking the tough questions yourself. What is their actual experience in broadcast or print news? What is their experience as a media spokesperson actually doing the media interview, formulating the communications agenda, and then delivering their message to the media in a concise, credible and confident manner. Have they ever handled a crisis situation and served as the media spokesperson facing the reporters? Have they ever had to set up and conduct a news conference during a crisis event? Have they ever faced that horde of reporters and array of cameras? Have they worked with others in their organization (directors, managers, the CEO) to help them prepare for the media interviews? If not, then take a pass.
Whether you select experienced professionals at The Media Skills Workshop or another company, and there are some pretty good ones out there – however, we’re not aware of any with our level of expertise on both sides of the microphone – pick someone who has not only asked the tough questions, but who has had to answer them as well – someone with experience on BOTH sides of microphone and BOTH sides of the camera. After all, you wouldn’t pick a someone who has merely watched from the ground to teach you skydiving.
Michael Drake is a media trainer based on the west coast. He has held every position in a radio and television news operation, has worked in the print media, and has served as the media spokesperson on the other side of the microphone in hundreds of media encounters on local and national media.