There are two reasons why you would want a spokesperson to be media trained. Firstly, you want them to be able to keep a journalist happy – so part of the media training must focus on what a journalist looks for in an interview, be it live or pre-recorded one. Ultimately you’re answering the question: “what makes good content for a broadcaster?”
Secondly, however, you need to get something from the interview too. You might be after brand awareness, or have a key message or call to action in mind: either way you need to develop the skill of weaving the content you want aired into the material the journalist wants to use.
The amalgamation of these two things is what makes good broadcast media training.
So, let’s look at what the journalist wants first…
When a broadcast journalist conducts a radio or TV interview they often have a preconceived idea of what they want their interviewee to say. I speak as a former journalist myself (ex BBC, ITN and Sky News amongst others) and in the busy world of news you do whatever it takes to make your deadline! A broadcast journalist will want one of two things: either a soundbite, that is a short clip around 15-20 seconds long that is slotted into a video package, or a live interview which results in more on-air time, more like 2-3 minutes. The same applies for radio – a soundbite can be used as a stand-alone piece of audio, or it can be wrapped with a reporter’s voice over either side.
What makes a good spokesperson for a journalist?
- Have authority – whatever the subject you have to sound confident and that you know what you’re talking about! This comes from showing knowledge, perhaps in the form of dropping some facts and figures, but it could be anecdotal too.
- Have an opinion – broadcasters love to pit one view against another – much more engaging viewing than everyone sitting on the fence and agreeing with each other!
- Be entertaining – not funny ha ha, but a spokesperson who enthuses about the subject, who speaks with energy and conviction, and is therefore much more engaging.
- Fit the bill – a spokesperson representing a charity for example is going to look out of place if they rock up for an interview in a designer suit. It’s all about expectation… and the same goes for the FTSE 100 CEO – a broadcaster would expect him to look the part.
- Perform – part of fitting the bill is remembering that broadcast, be it TV or radio, is all about performance. Good media training will put huge emphasis on this: considering the audience and adapting your vocabulary and speech accordingly; speaking in soundbites and short sentences, enabling easy editing and an interview that flows; engaging body language for TV which involves how you sit, where you look and much more.
- Be willing and available – this is probably THE most important thing and your reward for reading to the bottom of my list. Broadcasters are nearly always under time pressure so a spokesperson who responds immediately and jumps in a cab to the studio is already ahead of the rest of the pack – not to mention earning a place in the journalist’s all important contact book!
Now you’ve got a happy journalist what’s in it for you? It’s cost a lot of money to get to the point of your spokesperson sitting down in a studio, or cameras turning up at your office; you’re not just doing a favour for the journalist, there’s a reason behind the PR campaign and it generally involves selling more goods or services!
There are different ways of working branding into an interview:
- Verbally – successfully done this involves a subtlety and dexterity that you may never have employed before! Good media training will show you how to work that company name, or key message into an answer naturally. Too blatant and you’ll sound like an advert – that means in a live interview you will be cut short, and in a pre-recorded interview you might not get used at all. As a journalist I have done both these things to overly commercial spokespeople!
- Visually – on TV you’re likely to be given this automatically in the form of an aston on screen – that’s the writing you see with a name and company, but you could get more creative if a broadcaster is sending a camera crew to your office. Think about what you could have in the background of an interview for example. You’re treading a fine line between making the most of the opportunity and being a bit cheeky, but a journalist will tell you if you’ve gone too far.
The best way to make the most of a broadcast interview is to limit yourself to probably 1-2 brand mentions per interview. That’s success – and success means, not just a one-off interview, but being invited back for subsequent interviews again and again.
To learn more about How Much Branding Is Too Much Branding check out my 60 second video here.
And if you’d like to try out media training for yourself book a place at our FREE Media Training Taster Session. More details here.
Before moving to a career in PR Keren Haynes was a broadcast journalist. She’s worked for the BBC, ITN, Sky, Reuters and various radio and TV stations in Hong Kong and the Middle East. Her roles have included reporting, producing, news editing and news reading.