Most companies and executives are obsessed with the idea of 'getting' media coverage. They send out news releases, pitch reporters, buy ads, create events/promotions and throw thousands of dollars at PR firms in the hopes of securing interviews. Far fewer, however, take the appropriate steps to prepare for the actual interview itself. The result? Lackluster interviews. Boring quotes that end up at the bottom of the story. Or worse, damaging quotes that end up online forever.
At the same time, every organization wants to protect its brand and reputation. Yet, when a crisis hits (an accident, data breach, fire, errant tweet, etc.) and the media comes calling, many of the leaders who are thrust into the spotlight don't know how to prepare for or execute a proper media interview. Don't take my word for it. Just watch the news.
With that as the backdrop, here are five reasons why you owe it to yourself to get proper media training this year:
1. Your media coverage is your legacy
Every interview that you do is going to be stored online forever. Your children will see it. And their children will see it. And their great, great grandchildren will see it. Your media coverage will outlive and outlast you. It's going to make up part of your professional and personal legacy. The least you could do is prepare properly for it and leave them something awesome to read/listen to/watch.
2. Great media coverage is currency
More than ever before, great media coverage is currency in your professional life. Thanks to social media, your great media coverage can get more exposure than ever before by sharing it on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Great media coverage can help you get noticed, get a promotion, attract new customers or employees. It can help you generate awareness, speaking opportunities, partnerships and even more media interviews. In an era in which we're all battling for attention, make no mistake about it -- great media coverage is currency. And great media coverage doesn't happen without great media training.
3. You (probably) have some bad habits
I guarantee that right now, you have a few habits that would allow me, playing the role of a reporter, to get you to say something unpleasant about your company, to speculate about the future, to blame someone else for a problem or to speak on behalf of another organization. I know this because I see it happen every week. These are smart, successful people who make these mistakes. And the funny thing is that right before they make these mistakes, I tell them I'm going to make them do it. The 'habits of conversation' are hard-wired into all of us. They are societal cues. They're like reflexes. You're not aware of them. A proper media training session will highlight those habits of conversation, make you aware of them and show you how to sidestep them to tell your story your way.
4. Media relations is a game of inches
Remember Al Pacino's rousing locker room speech in Any Given Sunday? If you haven't seen it, look it up on YouTube. It's great. The gist of it is that the game is won inch by inch. "The inches we need are everywhere around us. They are in every break of the game. Every minute. Every second. On this team, we fight for that inch....cause we know when we add up all those inches, that's going to make the $%&^$ difference between winning and losing." You're fighting for those inches too. You have competitors who are trying to get that media opportunity you're looking for. Who are looking to get quoted higher up and more often in the story than you. Who are looking to give the reporter quotes so great that yours don't make it into the story. Media relations is a game of inches. But you can only win if you know the unwritten rules of how the game is played and won.
5. It's a great insurance policy
One thing I know for certain is that you absolutely, 100% cannot become great at conducting media interviews the day the media comes calling. Whether you're looking to generate positive, proactive coverage or you're looking to protect your brand in the event of a crisis, media training is something you need to do in advance. The most forward-thinking companies offer media training to their employees as a professional development opportunity. Many associations build it in as part of their Annual General Meeting or in a special session for their new board members each year. The best time to do media training is last year. The next best time to do media training is today.
The final piece of advice is that not all media trainers are created equal. That's why you need to ensure you're providing your spokespeople with 'proper' media training, not a junior person from a big PR firm reading a list of tips that you could get for free from Siri. Do your homework. Find out what their training includes. Find out how many sessions they're doing each year. Get lots of references and actually contact these individuals to find out what their experience looked like and whether they were pleased with the results or not.