Analysis

Spotlight on: Media Training

Keith Gladdis

Don’t get caught offside by the media.

Trained spokespeople are critical to every business launch.

One of the most striking features of the European Super League fiasco was that there wasn’t a single spokesperson ready to explain to fans, sponsors and politicians why it was a good idea.

The absence of an advocate from any of the six Premier League clubs involved left a vacuum in the media that was filled by critics united in condemnation of the project.

More importantly it signalled that no-one really believed in the plan, not even the leaders of the ‘Big Six’ clubs that had signed contracts committing them to join the Super League.

Identifying an effective spokesperson is a critical stage in any major business launch, promotional campaign, or strategic shift.

A passionate advocate will always help communicate a new project and the very process of finding a spokesperson also helps identify any potential issues.

Projects can look perfectly logical when in a written proposal, PowerPoint presentation or Excel spreadsheet, it’s often only when it is put in the mouth of a spokesperson that problems emerge.

Training a spokesperson prepares them for dealing with the media but it also helps hone the messaging around a project and tests the strategy too.

If you can’t find someone to articulate why you are doing something, you probably shouldn’t do it.

Finding your spokesperson

The stories that businesses tell, and the people who tell them, must stand up to the increasingly critical eye of the audience.

This can be a challenge when a spokesperson is the most senior person in an organisation or someone who has had little involvement with the project in question.

Depending on the situation you might need an alternative spokesperson, someone with more detailed knowledge of the sector, the financials, or the product.

The process of media training helps identify the person that will most effectively tell your story, the communicator with the potential to engage and inspire the audience.

Once the spokesperson has been identified professional coaching is essential.

Spokespeople can’t simply deliver a script. An overly practised and robotic performance will leave them exposed.

To deliver a confident, fluent and natural performance they must be prepared and equipped with the techniques they need to control an interview.

Message development

The foundation of an effective media interview is well honed messaging that resonates with the audience. The process of training a spokesperson is an opportunity to ‘stress test’ existing messaging to ensure it’s both relevant and robust under questioning.

There are two effective tests of a message. The first is to let an experienced journalist try their hardest to find holes in it. Former journalists can imitate the interview style of the reporter the spokesperson will be speaking to, they can ask tough and challenging questions and they can uncover questions that hadn’t been previously considered.

Practice sessions with journalists help build confidence in the messaging around the project or campaign and they also give the spokesperson the chance to explore the kind of language and proof points that work best for them.

The second test is audience review. Allowing an independent audience to observe and critique the performance of the messaging in a test interview gives the communications team the insight they need to craft more robust lines.

Audience review also helps identify the personality traits that a trainee needs to adjust. Do they need to enhance the hard communication traits to elevate perceived status or the soft traits that increase connectedness with an audience?

Interview training

Capably navigating a successful interview requires confidence and technique.

Media training is essential. Even the most experienced CEOs or seasoned media performers need to treat every media opportunity with caution and respect.

Being able to bridge, sidestep and signpost effectively allows a spokesperson to control an interview and projects credibility and authority.

Training allows a spokesperson to focus on communicating a story to the wider audience rather than worrying about the next question from the interviewer.

The most effective business launches or campaigns have spokesperson training built into them.

Preparation is key and confidence in the messaging essential for any spokesperson.

Learn from the European Super League. If you don’t have a spokesperson ready to articulate your launch, you’re not ready.

For more information download our brochure, visit mhpc.com/media-training or email media@mhpc.com.