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Media Training - Don't wait until after you need it

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“Experience Is Something You Don’t Get Until Just After You Need It.”

-Steven Wright

In almost every media training course we do, there is inevitably at least one person who signed up because of a media encounter that did not go well. Experience just after they needed it.

It is obviously better to make your mistakes in the safe confines of a classroom, than hear them on the local news or read them in the local paper.

While I believe anyone who deals with the media should have media training, please appreciate that this view comes from someone who teaches this stuff, so there may be a bias in my comments. But I’m not saying you have to take our workshop. There are other options.

Read a book on dealing with the media (I can recommend some titles) or go on-line as there is a ton of material available, from very good to simply awful, but with some searching, you will find lots of solid information.

Do some homework and learn how to deal with reporters with confidence. Don’t just decide not to engage with them. Overcome your fear of being interviewed because it can be paralyzing, and counterproductive.  They don’t bite, unless it’s a consenting adults thing but I digress.

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I can’t count how many times, when I was a reporter, I would phone an individual or a company, usually because they were being beaten up in the media and I was acting out of a journalistic fairness obligation to get their side. But the person representing the other side of the story wasn’t interested in talking to me.

Often the conversation would go something like this:

Me: Mr. Jones, I’m phoning because I’m doing a story on such and such, and since you are involved, I’d like your comments.

Mr. Jones: Thanks for calling but look; we have a policy that we don’t talk to the media.

Sometimes that would be the end of it, but sometimes, depending on how much I wanted that quote or maybe just based on my mood, I would push further.

Me: Why is that?

Mr. Jones: Because we got burned once by a reporter and decided that we were never going to allow that to happen again.

And if I pushed further they would tell me the story. It’s amazing the number of times I was told that what happened, happened years before and they have been avoiding the media ever since.

So whatever was being said about the company, that they were polluting the environment or were unfair to employees or whatever, would go unchallenged. The damage to reputation unmet. The opportunity to turn a negative into a positive missed.

This strikes me as awful. All those opportunities lost. All those occasions to balance out the bad news or share good news that would go unnoticed. All those occasions to present the image you want people to have of you, your company or your organization squandered. Allowing people with sometimes totally different agendas to decide what the public perception of you will be.

In our media training I use an analogy I read somewhere years ago that refusing to deal with the media is like allowing the hockey game to begin without even putting your team on the field. So the other team is going ahead and scoring goals with the public while you are hiding away, avoiding an interview because it might not go well.

Maybe it’s just me, but wouldn’t the more sensible option be to learn how to improve the odds of your interview going well and then using those skills to get in the game and defend or promote yourself?  It’s a thought.

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