Media Training for Covid-19 Key Messages: Rule of Threes

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

The brain remembers three things better than five. That is why the Rule of Threes is a foundation of media training. So when key medical experts testified before Congress recently, the nit-picker in me appreciated their five tips for preventing the spread of Covid-19, yet I know that a minor shift to three tips could result in more effective crisis communications.

The doctors all suggested:

  1. Wear a mask
  2. Wash your hands frequently
  3. Practice social distancing
  4. Avoid crowds at businesses, bars, and social gatherings
  5. Avoid large family gatherings

Although their advice seems fairly straightforward, as a professional media trainer and crisis communications expert, I am always examining how to communicate more effectively in a crisis.

Watch the video to learn how you can convert these five points into three key messages to clearly explain the guidelines in a way that the spokesperson can easily remember, and listeners can easily remember, using the Rule of Threes, and our Key Message Tree mind-mapping model.

This media training model can be applied to every event for every spokesperson. When you apply the Rule of Threes, your media training will be far more effective.

If you’d like to learn more, schedule a no-obligation conversation with me using this link: https://calendly.com/braud/15min

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

“Covid-19 Death Toll is Like 5 Boeing 737 Max 8 Jets Crashing Every Day:” Crisis Communications Tips to Land Analogies

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Crisis communications surrounding Covid-19 has been difficult. Why is it that you can put a medical expert in front of the media and they have difficulty landing your crisis communications message?

From a communications standpoint, it comes down to: 

  • facts
  • passion
  • outrage, and 
  • fear.

Before reading this blog further, watch the INTRO to the video which describes the disclaimer, my personal bias, and my personal goal for putting out this message:

Now, imagine if a medical expert got on television and made the impassioned plea below: (Note, the entire plea is demonstrated in today’s video for training purposes.)

“The daily death toll from Covid-19 in the United States is like five Boeing 737 Max 8 jets crashing every day and killing everyone on board.

Think about this. Governments around the world were outraged that 346 people died in two crashes of 737 Max 8 jets. Governments and airlines banned the planes from flying because 346 people died.

Yet here we are, in the middle of a pandemic, and there is no outrage when the number of people who die each day in the United States is equal to five jets crashing each day. 

The number of people who have died since the onset of the pandemic in the United States in March is equal to 750 jets crashing and killing everyone on board.

As a country, would we sit idly by if five jets crashed every day? 

As a country, would we be outraged if 750 jets fell out of the sky and killed 150,000 U.S. Citizens?

We would not stand for it.

If terrorists shot down five jets every day in the United States and killed 1,000 people, would we not declare war?

If terrorists killed 150,000 U.S. Citizens over five months, would we not mobilize every bit of energy we have as a united nation to stop them from taking one more life?

So then why is it that we are okay with letting 1,000 U.S. Citizens die every day from a disease that we can fight and stop?

So then why is it that we are okay with letting 150,000 U.S. Citizens die in five months from a disease that we can fight and stop?”  

©2020 Diversified Media, LLC

(…and scene.)

(Footnote: An Axios poll release while I am writing this says 30% of Americans believe the numbers I just used from the CDC are inflated.)

The opposing viewpoint has been effectively using the analogy that says:

“Covid-19 deaths are no different than the deaths we see every year from the common flu.”

The second analogy about the flu has stuck with about one-third of Americans, according to polls.

Here are three reasons why one side has been more successful in messaging:

  1. Medical experts are trying to sell scientific facts.
  2. Medical experts are failing to sell compelling fear or outrage.
  3. and #3 … and this is a big one… those with opposing views have done a better job of getting out front with their own analogies first.

And I’ll add this point to number 3 — Those who have been selling their analogies better, have sold them as a dismissive message to an audience that is usually motivated by fear. In other words, people who are normally motivated and inspired by fear are being told, “You have nothing to fear.”

— Now before you start wondering if this blog is motivated by my politics, the answer is no. For more than 25 years I’ve worked to share crisis communications strategies with you and this is just one more lesson.

It should be noted, that in most crises, there are not two opposing arguments. For example, when a jet crashes and kills all 200 people on board, the President, members of Congress, Governors, and elected officials are not standing in front of the media saying,

“It’s just one jet. More people die every day from the flu than died in that airplane crash.”

So no, this is not a blog that takes sides on the issue because of politics. It is a blog about how to be effective in your crisis communications.

Where did my airplane crash analogy come from? Recently on a television news program, a doctor was trying to use the analogy, but he failed to land the analogy. The doctor failed because his delivery of the analogy lacked passion, fear, and outrage.

So here are the realities as I write this on July 26, 2020:

  • Many passenger jets carry 200 people.
  • The 737 Max 8 was pulled from service after two crashes killed 346 people.
  • Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. at this point have reached daily death tolls of 1,000 people.

In conclusion:

  • Analogies are a great way to communicate.
  • Analogies that tap into fear and outrage can be more effective.
  • If you use analogies, you must sell the message with passion and outrage.
  • When your analogy is compelling, others will use it.

We’ve watched the viral spread of the analogy that Covid-19 deaths are no different than the flu. Let’s watch to see if the analogy about the airline crash takes off.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

How to Do a Remote Media Interview: COVID-19 Media Training Tips

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

The number of remote media interviews, online interviews, Zoom interviews, and the like have skyrocketed in the past few weeks. In last week’s video, I asked you, who is doing them well? How is the quality of the videos?

Well, today I am providing you with expert media training strategies to help you look professional, organized, and credible as a source for your media interview.

If lighting, camera angles, technology, and wardrobe stress you out (and rightfully so), this video can help you be a video producer in your own home office or other remote location.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Covid-19 Crisis Communications Webinar Recording

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

COVID-19 Media Interviews: Share Your Thoughts

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC 

The COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has spawned new aspects of crisis communications and media interviews. Behold, the social distancing media interview done from your computer in your home.

What do you think about these interviews?

Your assignment for the day is to:

  1. Watch TV
  2. Take a photo of an interview being done from home
  3. Critique how the interview looks
  4. Send your image and your critique to me at any of my platforms, and feel free to include the hashtag #TVInterviews

Here are some criteria to look for and to comment on:

  1. Camera angle
  2. Lighting
  3. Background
  4. Glare
  5. Distractions
  6. Posture
  7. …plus anything else that you observe that your professional colleagues should either duplicate or avoid.

Share them via:

@gbraud on Twitter

Gerard Braud on LinkedIn

The BraudCast on YouTube

Braud Communications on Facebook

After you share your observations, I’ll share them back with our community so you’ll be better prepared if you or one of your team members is called upon to do a television interview via your computer from home.

Should you need in-depth training, we can provide you with remote media training for remote interviews as well as train-the-trainer remote training so you can coach your executives and subject matter experts. To learn more, schedule a call: https://calendly.com/braud/15min

Many of the techniques you have learned in traditional media training still apply. Yet, at the same time, there are some clear distinctions and additional burdens. Think of it this way: In a traditional television interview, the news crew is responsible for things you never need to think about, such as:

  • lighting
  • audio quality
  • the background view
  • background noise
  • the camera angle
  • and more

Whereas you traditionally needed to focus on:

  • what you were going to say
  • your wardrobe
  • your body language
  • and more

Suddenly, you have to do both your job and their job.

It isn’t easy. I’ll work on a checklist for all of you, but by all means, if you need professional training we’re here to be your training partner.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

How to Use Social Media for Crisis Communications

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

There’s No Room for Your Facts in a Media Interview

When I was a reporter, I was always joking around in the newsroom. One day, I declared,

“Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”

We all laughed. A colleague was pushing for a story to make the evening news, but there were lots of holes in the story and I wanted my story to be the lead story. I won and got the lead story. The colleague’s story was killed.

Over the years we used the joke here and there, but then we began to realize that way too much of what made the news at our TV station and at those of our competitors, made the news regardless of the facts. In the end, it was one of the reasons I left the news business after a great 15-year ride.

But let’s be honest. How many news stories are filled with facts? The truth is, not a lot. Newspaper stories will always have more details than TV and radio news reports. But TV stories, especially, are driven by visual images. The example that I always use is that if the story is about a brown cow, I need video of a brown cow. If I have no video of a brown cow, I can’t put the story on the evening news.

Another example I always use is the mixed metaphor that says,

“If a tree falls in the woods and it is not on video, is it news?”

When I used to cover hurricanes in the ‘80s and ‘90s I was always upset when I didn’t have video of something blowing away. I needed the visual on video to tell the story.

A print reporter will likely write only a 12-20 sentence synopsis, a radio reporter is only writing 6-8 sentences and a TV reporter is only writing 10-12 sentences.

The average person tries to give way, way, way too many facts in a news interview.

Take this comment with a grain of salt, but the reporter doesn’t really care about you or the facts. Sure, they seem interested in you, but their report is more important to them personally than your facts.

A news report is a puzzle. Certain pieces must fit exactly together. In a TV report, quotes make up one-third of the story. The lead and the conclusion together make up one-third of the story. I don’t want to burst your bubble, but can you guess how much room we have in the story for your facts? In a TV news report, that equals 4 sentences. In a print report that equals 8-12 sentences.

If there is no room in the story for a bunch of facts, why would you spend so much time giving lots of facts to the reporter? Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

Crisis Communication Question: What Would You Do?

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC


Today’s crisis communication question is, what would you do if there was a fire and explosion where you work?

How long would it take before someone in your company could gather the facts, write a crisis communications news release, get the news release approved by the crisis management team, then released to the media, your employees, your customers, and your community?

One hour? Two hours? Three hours, or more?

The crisis communication case studies I’ve reviewed indicates many companies still take in excess of three hours to issue a statement. That is far too long and frankly, unacceptable.

If your company can’t release at least a basic statement in less than one hour of the onset of the crisis, you are failing.

Let me add a layer of crisis communications reality. There is a chance that a member of the public is instantly posting pictures and videos to social media within minutes of the explosion.

Let me increase your crisis anxiety by pointing out that the eyewitness could be broadcasting the fire and disaster live with Twitter’s PeriscopeFacebook LiveYouTube LiveInstagram Live, and LinkedIn Live, as well as other emerging apps.

With each passing minute that social media is telling your story, you are losing control of the narrative and increasing the potential damage to your company’s reputation and revenue.

The best way to communicate quickly is to

Follow the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications

To learn more about the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communication, use this link to get access to a free 5-part video series that explores best practices in crisis communication. This series takes you into a deeper dive than we have time for here.

Step 1 Conduct a vulnerability assessment

The assessment, done on a clear sunny day, identifies everything that could potentially damage your company’s reputation and revenue. This must include sudden crises such as fires and explosions, as well as smoldering crises such as sexual harassment or a social media post gone wrong.

Step 2 Write an effective crisis communications plan

This should not be just a checklist of standard operating procedures. It should be specific, sequential instructions for gathering information, confirming it with your crisis management team, then disseminating one message to all audiences. Those audiences must include the media, your employees, your customers, and your community. The plans I license to my clients have a provision that they must communicate to their audiences within one hour or less of the onset of the crisis. You can learn more details by signing up for the 5-part video series. You’ll also be given an option to download a PDF of a First Critical Statement that is perfect for every crisis.

Step 3 Have a library of pre-written news releases

Each of my clients receives a base set of 100 pre-written news releases with their crisis communications plan. Each news release is methodically written to have multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank options that allow the statement to be modified in about 10 minutes. The statements read less like a traditional news release and more like a well-written news story. This one statement goes to all audiences and stakeholders.

Step 4 Provide Media Training

In crisis communication media training, all of your potential spokespeople learn to deliver their statements by using the pre-written news releases in Step 3. They also learn the secrets to answering tough follow-up questions. A primary purpose of media training is to allow your spokespeople to make mistakes in private so that they do not make mistakes in public. In media training, it is also critical that each participant gets videotaped and evaluated multiple times during the day.

Step 5 Hold a Crisis Communication Drill

Like media training, the drill is designed to allow participants to make mistakes in private so that they do not make mistakes during a real crisis. A good crisis communications drill must have misdirection, injections of social media and mainstream media activities, plus at least two full-blown mock news conferences. Generally, the drills I conduct last about three hours, followed by a 90-minute evaluation. Team members can know the day of the drill and the time, but the drill scenario should be a secret.

The bottom line is that the traditional speed of communications from companies is far too slow in the age of social media. Many executives seem oblivious to the speed of social media, in part, because so many executives are not personally on social media. That must change if you want to protect your organization’s reputation and revenue in a crisis.

If you need to know more, please contact us. For a deeper dive, make sure you sign up for the free 5-part video series on the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

HSE & Crisis Communication Best Practices

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Health, safety, and environmental (HSE) best practices are expanding beyond emergency management and disaster recovery. An increasing number of occupational safety experts are recognizing that their crisis management duties must now include best practices in crisis communications.

Many HSE experts work in smaller companies without a public relations professional, so CEO’s and managers are tasking their HSE experts with managing communications during a crisis event.

To learn more about the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communication, use this link to get access to a free 5-part video series that explores best practices in crisis communication. This series takes you into a deeper dive than we have time for here.

Among the things HSE professionals must be aware of is that your emergency response activities are often captured on social media by eyewitnesses. As of this writing, eyewitnesses can broadcast your emergency with Twitter’s Periscope, Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Instagram Live, and LinkedIn Live, as well as other emerging apps.

Not only are members of your community getting information from social media eyewitnesses, but so are the mainstream media who often republish and rebroadcast social media pictures and videos. We have some great crisis communication social media case studies in the 5-part video series.

Respectable companies are seeing their reputation and revenue destroyed because of negative publicity on both social media and mainstream media.

How do you deal with social media in a crisis?

You must adopt new best practices for crisis communications so that you can be communicating with the media, your employees, your customers, and your community faster than ever before. Faster crisis communications helps you control the narrative of the story. Fast and accurate crisis communications also ends speculation found on both social media and mainstream media.

How do you master fast and accurate crisis communications?

Step 2 of the 5 steps to effective crisis communications is to have a library of pre-written news releases that can be edited in record time and distributed to all audiences, including the media, your employees, your customers, and your community. Each of my clients receives a base set of 100 pre-written news releases with their crisis communications plan. Each news release is methodically written to have multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank options that allow the statement to be modified in about ten minutes.

Step 3 of the 5 steps to effective crisis communications is to have a crisis communications plan that sequentially guides the HSE professional through gathering facts about the incident, confirming it with the crisis management team, then using a pre-written news release to communicate with all of your stakeholders. A good crisis communication plan must take into account that the HSE team is not necessarily schooled in the best practices of public relations. Therefore, the best PR and crisis communication practices must be baked into the sequential instructions of the crisis communications plan.

HSE professionals are often becoming the spokesperson in a crisis. Hence, Step 4 in the 5 steps to effective crisis communications is to schedule crisis media training. A pre-written news release makes a perfect news conference script to read. Media training helps you learn to deliver the statement well. It also helps you respond to difficult questions.

To go deeper, register for the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications. If you are ready to move forward, phone us at 985-624-9976.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Crisis Communications Tip: Don’t Let Bubba Be Your De facto Spokesperson  

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

You are going to learn about Bubba in today’s BraudCast video. But first, put yourself in this situation and then answer the questions below:

Imagine there is an explosion where you work. The community is rattled by the blast. The community can see black smoke billowing. Police, firefighters, and EMS are responding. Now answer these three questions:

1) How long will it be before eyewitnesses begin posting pictures, video, or comments about the incident to social media?

2) How long will it take before the media either arrive to report on your event or how long before the media begin to tell the story with social media accounts from eyewitnesses?

3) How long will it take before you are able to draft a news release, get it approved, and get it released?

Please post your answer below or Tweet it to me @gbraud

So who is Bubba and why should you care? Bubba was the guy who stood outside of his house trailer and told me, “It blow’d up real good,” when I was a TV reporter and asked him about an explosion at a nearby chemical plant. I then put Bubba on the news. You can get the fun, juicy version of the story by watching the video featured above.

By default, Bubba inadvertently became the company’s de facto spokesperson because the company was slow to issue a media statement to me as the television reporter covering this breaking news story.

Bubba was both a spokesperson’s worst nightmare, as well as one of my greatest inspirations for the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications  system that I have followed for more than 20 years. To get the juicy version of the Bubba story, and to meet Bubba’s modern day social media counterparts, please watch the video. I promise you’ll love it and you’ll want to share the lesson with co-workers and colleagues.

With every passing minute that there is no official statement from your organization, the narrative of the story is controlled by eyewitness accounts, as well as by speculation from the media. You and the company you work for are unintentionally making eyewitnesses your de facto spokespeople if you fail to issue at least a very basic statement within one hour of the onset of the crisis. (You can get a free copy of a basic statement by registering for my free 5-part video series on the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications here.)

As you watch the video, you will learn that Bubba set the narrative for my news report about the explosion and fire. His soundbite controlled the narrative of the news story because the paid spokesperson for the company failed to respond to my request for an interview. The public relations spokesperson had a chance to be on live reports at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon. Bubba would have never had a chance to say, “It blow’d up real good,” nearly two and a half hours into this crisis, if an official spokesperson agreed to do an interview. I only interviewed Bubba because I needed a soundbite to complete the aesthetics for my noon news report.

Bubba was made the de facto spokesperson not by me, but technically by the company and its paid spokesperson, when the spokesperson elected not to give me an interview.

According to Step 2 of the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, a company’s crisis communications plan should dictate that a spokesperson and statement should be available to the media, employees, the community, and other stakeholders, within one hour of the onset of the crisis.

According to Step 3 of the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, a company spokesperson should be able to meet that deadline by using a fill-in-the-blank pre-written news release.

According to Step 4 of the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications, a company spokesperson should have undergone sufficient media training, such that they can effectively deliver the pre-written news release to reporters, without fearing that the interview will go badly.

The takeaway: Don’t let Bubba be your de facto spokesperson.

Learn more about the 5 Steps to Effective Crisis Communications by watching our free 5-Part video tutorial. Register here.

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

3 Lessons the Melania Trump Coat Can Teach All Public Relations People

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

Please Pick Me to be Your Media Trainer

By Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC

Your spokespeople need media training and I’d like to be your media trainer. There. I said it. I’m asking you to please consider me.

Below are three reasons why my training can offer you techniques that other trainers don’t offer. Plus – if you book your training in November and December 2018, I’ll let you add one extra person to the media training class at no extra charge. Many of you have money in your budget that you either have to spend or you will lose it. So act fast to get your training on the calendar now.

To make the case of why you and your spokespeople can achieve greater results from my media training programs, here are three things to consider.

Consideration #1: Mobile Device News Readers

I’ve adjusted my training to coincide with how people read news on their mobile devices. PEW Research says 85% of older adults read their news on a mobile device. Most people will tell you they only read the headline, the first paragraph, and the first quote, before they move onto something else. In other words, their perception about the news story that might involve your organization is derived from the headline, the lead sentence, and the quote. That is one of my primary points of focus, because it is the essence of a reporter’s inverted pyramid writing style.

More then 15 years ago I pioneered the preamble technique. Initially the preamble was developed to add context to a media interview. Because most reporters ask direct questions and most spokespeople try to respond with a direct answer, often the answer is taken out of context because the spokesperson is never taught to add context. A well-worded, profound, overarching sentence, spoken by the spokesperson as a preamble to their first answer provides context.

Consideration #2: Controlling the Edit

As this preamble technique has evolved, an increasing number of reporters are using the preamble to make up the essence of their lead sentence. And if you know anything about the newsroom, you know that the headline is written by a copy-editor who reads the lead. Hence, if your preamble controls the lead, then your preamble also controls the headline. If you control both of these, you control the perception of the mobile device reader and you control the edit of the news story.

Consideration #3: Strong Quotes

A compelling quote compels a good reporter to put the quote in their news report, as well as to use it early in their report. I promise you that I can help your spokespeople land some amazing quotes. Preamble + Quote = Controlling the edit + Controlling the perception.

Time for a change?

Most media trainers are still teaching spokespeople to focus on three bullet points as their key messages, which leads to bad ad-libs. Most trainers are teaching bad techniques such as telling people to only talk about what you want to talk about, combined with bad avoidance techniques, bad pivots, and bad spin. Guess what? The audience is wise to this and rejects it, just as the media are wise to this and reject it.

What might have worked in the past doesn’t work today. Times are changing. Are you changing with the times? Is your media trainer changing with the times?

If you love your media trainer, please stay with them. If it is time to hire your first media trainer or change to a new media trainer, it would be my honor to talk with you. Please phone me at 985-624-9976 or email me at Gerard@BraudCommunications.com

And remember, if you book in November or December of 2018, when you book a class for four spokespeople I will let you add a fifth person at no additional charge.

Thank you for your consideration.

 

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

More crisis communications articles:

3 Lessons the Melania Trump Coat Can Teach All Public Relations People

The Biggest Lie in Crisis Communications

4 Steps Every Company Needs to Take in Order to Avoid the Default Spokesperson

 

3 Steps to Make Your Mark in a Media Interview

tartan-track-2678543_1920Have you put a spokesperson through media training only to have the news report turn out less than favorable? Have you ever put a spokesperson through media training, only to have the interview miss its mark?

If you answered yes to one or both of these, it is time to adopt maverick media training.

What is maverick media training?

Step 1:

Recognize the failing point of an interview. Bad ad libs are the leading cause of interview failures and news report embarrassment. Yet most media trainers still use the same old technique of giving a spokesperson three key messages, with instructions to ad lib about the key messages. The key messages are usually bullet points or slogan type phrases. They lack the parsing that leads to perfection in word choice.

Maverick media training relies on more preparation by a brilliant writer who can think and write like a reporter. Elements include first writing a strong preamble statement that adds immediate context when spoken. It must explain how your organization serves the greater good of humanity and the primary ways you accomplish this goal. The preamble statement must be written in a conversational tone and must foreshadow the aspects of the organization that the spokesperson is capable of discussing. This should then be followed by a series of paragraphs that simplify complicated issues, adding slightly more detail as you go.

Think of the writing process as a large tree, anchored by a solid tree trunk, that supports three solid branches. In maverick media training this is known as the key message tree. The more you grow your tree with well-worded, easy to internalize sentences, the greater likelihood you have that the spokesperson will internalize and use the sentences verbatim, thus replacing bad ad libs with great, quotable content.

Step 2:

Recognize that a direct answer to a direct question leads to failure. That’s because a direct answer has no context. This mistake is the primary reason spokespeople complain that they were taken out of context.

When you use the preamble and key message tree system described in step one, the spokesperson can add context with the preamble and transition from there to answering the essence of the reporter’s question.

If the actions of your organization are always in line with and congruent to your preamble, your interview will always go smoothly. If someone has done something wrong and created a crisis, the preamble can be modified to include an apology for failing to live up to the goals and standards of the organization. The apology can then be followed by an explanation of what corrective actions will be taken to avoid similar failings in the future.

Step 3:

Focus on the final edit. Many people lament that, “You can’t control the edit.” That is false.

If you recognize that every news report has a headline, a synopsis sentence known as a “lead,” and at least one quote from your spokesperson, then you can begin to control the edit.

Maverick media training stresses to the spokesperson the need to begin answers with a series of well-worded, well-written and well-internalized verbatim phrases that mimic the headline, lead, and quote. In essence, the key message tree mimics what reporters call the inverted pyramid. The inverted pyramid focuses on generalities first and adds more details as the news story progresses.

Ultimately, there is a psychology to greater success in a media interview. It involves thinking like, writing like, and speaking like a reporter. If you give a reporter the elements needed to do their job, in the very order and sequence that they need them, your victories in interviews and news report edits will rise exponentially.

If media interviews in the past have failed you and your spokespeople, or you are unsure about the logistics of a potential future media interview, be a maverick and adopt new media training techniques.

 

Crisis communications and media training expert Gerard Braud, CSP, Fellow IEC is based in New Orleans. Organizations on five continents have relied on him to write their crisis communications plans and to train their spokespeople. He is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until…”

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