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Posts Tagged ‘Media training’

The Art of ‘Um’ and ‘Uh’: Different Vocal Pokes for Different Media Folks

likeIf you have spent any time in PR, you know there are a fair number of media trainers. Typically, these are hacks-turned-flacks who understand how to help clients talk to the media without sounding like remedial English students.

That brings us to a lingustic affliction called Speech Disfluency.

SD involves speaking with “any of various breaks, irregularities, or non-lexical vocables that occurs within the flow of otherwise fluent speech”. You may think of stuttering or hesitating, but this definition also refers to the use of the universal word (and media no-no) “Huh.” (True story, look it up.)

We call those “vocal crutches.” And now — thanks to some deep, battle-of-the-sexes-type research, such crutches can demonstrate one’s gender you are during one of those deep throat interviews.

So, like, see it, um, after the jump…

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Media Training Tips and Cautionary Tales

In the high-risk, high-reward world of media training, major stumbles during television interviews are seared indefinitely in the public’s memory. Nailing an interview is not so easy, even for well-known public figures and corporate executives.

Media relies on basic principles and varied techniques. Today we’re focusing on seven tips–and what can happen when interviewees ignore them. As noted below, not everyone is as well-versed in handling the media as Joe Torre, (left) a former Major League Baseball manager.

Preparation is key since winging it is never a good idea. Interviewees need to wrap their heads around not only the core topics, but also the show, the interviewer and his or her questioning style. An example of what not to do? Herman Cain appeared completely clueless when asked about Libya during a video interview in Milwaukee last November, leaving several seconds of awkward, empty air time.

Keep answers brief, limited to quick sound bites. While Vice President Joe Biden is well known for his rambling remarks, the communicator in chief may need to heed this tip as well: During NYU’s Hospitality Investment Conference in June, NBC’s Chuck Todd predicted that President Obama may not win the first debate this fall, because [almost] no one has cut his remarks short during his term in office–and debates have strict time limits.

Beware softball questions. “What newspapers and magazines do you read?” is not a technically difficult question. Still, it was enough to trip up Sarah Palin during her now-infamous interview with Katie Couric during the 2008 Presidential election that was later parodied on SNL.

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Media Training Techniques and Trends

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 Timesnew 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.”

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