How media interviews are like American Idol

Love it or hate it, American Idol has introduced the music-buying public to some very talented performers that, but for the show, might have remained in obscurity forever. At the same time, however, the popular show has served as a venue for some of the most hideous, offensive musical disasters ever to be seen on television. Those cringe-inducing songs being howled by talentless teens whose parents didn't have the courage to tell them that they suck. As a viewer, you sit there watching this acoustic transgression unfold and wonder to yourself: "How could this person possibly think they're qualified to be on this stage?"

It's a perfect analogy for media interviews. It's perfectly obvious, even to the casual observer, which spokespeople are properly prepared to speak to the media and which ones shouldn't be allowed within a 50-foot radius of a reporter.

Sure, the people who excel on American Idol have talent. But they also take their craft seriously and make time to practice. The same thing goes for media interviews. No one is born being a great interviewer. It's a learned skill. And one of the best ways to shorten that learning curve is to invest in high-quality media interview training.

If you recognize the value of media training, you can stop reading here. But if you think you're a naturally-gifted communicator who would knock that media interview out of the park, you might want to pay attention. At the risk of beating this analogy to death, you might just be the media relations equivalent of William Hung.

With that in mind (and hoping you can get that song out of your head), here are four reasons why media training is a worthwhile investment:

  1. The media influences perceptions of your organization: Like it or not, people will make knee-jerk judgments about you and your company based on the merits of your 15-second quote. And in the era of Google and YouTube, this stuff never goes away. Media training can help you determine what you want to say with your 15 seconds.
  1. Accurate coverage begins with you: Don't leave the onus for accuracy on the reporter. Sure, they're getting paid to get the facts straight. But you're the expert or they wouldn't be calling you. One rookie mistake can mean a missed opportunity. Or worse, it can create a negative issue for your company to deal with. Media training can help increase the accuracy of your coverage.
  1. You have a right to tell your story: When that interview starts, it's all on your shoulders. No one is going to come to your aid. You need to be able to navigate the interview effectively and get your story across. Media training can give you the tools and discipline to do those things.
  1. Practice improves performance: This is a fact that Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and the other American Idol winners already know. And when it comes to practice, there's no better way to prepare for media interviews than the white-knuckled, gut-wrenching simulated interviews that make up part of a high-quality media training session.

If your company is called upon to give media interviews on a regular basis, consider the benefits associated with this type of training and how it can help improve your media coverage. There's simply too much on the line to ignore it (your company's reputation and your career for starters).