Media training is a high stakes field with visible results: Flawless public appearances are impressive while faulty performances can be devastating. We recently checked in via email with three media training specialists at PR agencies for their perspectives on the latest techniques, challenges and trends. Here’s the lowdown.
Training strategy is “about media mastery,” according to Leslie Linton, SVP media strategies at MWW in New York. “It’s about taking control of an interview, reacting quickly and effectively in a breaking news or crisis situation.”
Traditional and unconventional methods are used. “Clients increasingly recognize the importance of video training,” reported Ryan Richert, SVP media services at Edelman in Chicago. “You never know when a veteran print journalist will pull out an iPhone to record video of an interview. The New York Times’ new CEO comes from the BBC and embraces video storytelling.” Richert foresees journalists across major outlets using more video.
Linton strongly agreed with Richert on the value of video. She also utilizes “positive and negative sound bite examples and concentrates on bridging techniques to help clients out of troubling questions.”
“Our training program uses unexpected techniques,” said Stephen Brown, managing director at Cohn & Wolfe in Atlanta. “These range from ‘surprise calls’ from real or mock reporters during a session to surrounding interviews with props or lifelike set pieces.” He described another technique where a trainer writes a wire story in real-time during practice interviews, then shares the story so clients understand their statements’ immediate impact.
Media training adapts to rapid news cycles and social media networks. “Sound bites are shorter, simpler, and crisper,” Richert explained. “Watch the evening network news and you don’t see any more 15 second sound bites; most are about half that length. In the age of 140-character comments, executives can’t afford to be wordy, so I focus on helping our clients tighten up their talking points and cut to the chase.”