By Gerard Braud
One of the most difficult challenges I have in my job as a media trainer is to get executives to carve out time in their schedule for training. As mentioned in lesson 2, some don’t see the financial benefit. An even greater percentage are afraid of what ever embarrassment they may go through during the training.
Admittedly, it is difficult for high powered people to intentionally put themselves in a vulnerable position. But media training requires an executive to exercise a little humility and to recognize that training is a great time to learn a new skill or perfect an old skill.
So here are some suggestions whether you are the executive who needs to be trained or whether it’s your job to convince an executive that he or she need media training.
Everyone needs to understand up front that the day needs to be fun and that they need to be ready to laugh at themselves and their mistakes. Making mistakes is part of learning, i.e. you learn from your mistakes.
Just the same, I try to create a safety zone for the student. If the person being trained is the CEO I prefer that we are the only two people in the room. At a minimum we can expect the class to take 4 hours. And as a sign of good faith, I always promise to destroy the video tape that we used to record mock interviews during the training.
Basic media training familiarizes an executive with the concept of media interviews, I’ll generally conduct 3 interviews during the course of the training. The first interview is a simple baseline interview. It let’s me gage the executive’s natural skills and personality type. I’ll determine quickly if the student is prone to give too many details, for example. I’ll also test their ability to stay on topic or whether they are easily distracted and get off topic easily.
The interview is recorded on video so it can be played back, evaluated and critiqued, even if you are practicing for a print interview.
I’ll then introduce the concept of using key messages to stay on topic and control the interview, then we will do a second interview on camera, followed by another evaluation.
My third interview begins to introduce negative questions and is designed to teach the concept of blocking a negative question by bridging back to one of the key messages and then hooking the reporter with new information.
I conclude the training with four things.
- First, I let the student destroy the video tape as promised
- Secondly, I give the student instructions that in order to truly master the skill they must begin using key messages every day in ordinary conversations.
- Thirdly, I tell them they must role play with someone before every interview. Even if you only have 5 minutes, you need to get your head in the game and your mouth in gear.
- Finally, I let them know that media training is not a one time event in life, but something that requires practice and more training.
For groups of vice presidents, managers and directors, the choice is yours as to whether you offer them a private 4 hour training, or whether you combine them into small groups for a full day of training. It is my personal preference to have no more than 4 people in a full day training program. When you add additional people you may need to add a second video camera and interviewer in order to complete all 3 role playing interviews in the allotted time.
In some cases, clients will ask for a training program to familiarize large groups with media training and the do’s and don’ts of media interviews. Such classes are possible. I’ve conducted programs with hundreds of people in the room. You can teach them all of the same lessons you would in a small media training class, but you are obviously unable to do personal role playing interviews with everyone. Generally I’ll bring a volunteer to the stage to show everyone how an interview should be conducted. Then I ask the audience members to partner with the person next to them to conduct an interview. The audience members each take a turn to ask questions and to answer questions. Then I lead them through the process of giving each other an evaluation.
Finally, one way to get hesitant executives to train is to incorporate presentation training into the program. Many of the skills used to make a good presentation are some of the same skills used in an interview.
I always remind my students that Michael Jordan did not become the best basketball player of his day after a single practice, nor did Tiger Woods become a great golfer after taking a class at a Putt-Putt course. Likewise, to truly master the skill of being interviewed, you have to practice on a regular basis and find a coach and trainer who is a good match for your organization.
In our next lesson we will look at the big difference a little practice makes.