Media Training Without the Media Trainer

Getting media trained is a bit like working with a gymnastics coach: one lesson is rarely enough, practice is essential, and a good instructor can prevent you from getting hurt.

Of course, you don’t need to spend hours a day working on your media skills. Refresher training twice a year is often sufficient. But scheduling and budget limitations all too often get in the way.

One of the most common questions I get at the conclusion of a media training is, “How can we practice between now and our next training?” The obvious answer would be to take the concepts learned and employ them for any news interviews that occur after the training. Trouble is, many clients opt for media training well ahead of interview opportunities. In fact, the proactive ones (also known as the smart ones) schedule training as part of a precautionary PR strategy even when there aren’t any interviews on the immediate horizon.

Fortunately, there are other ways to stay in shape when the coach isn’t around to spot you.

Use your camera for more than taking selfies

In all likelihood, you’ve got a broadcast quality TV news camera in your pocket right now (or perhaps you are reading this blog post with it). Put that smartphone to use as part of your self-training strategy. Have a friend, colleague or spouse interview you. Then, review the video and watch for your own missteps. Did you speak in sound bites? Did you stay on message? How comfortably did you handle the tough questions? Remember, a video camera is the world’s most effective –and most honest—media trainer.

Treat everyone like they’re Anderson Cooper

A sloppy delivery can sabotage even the most message-oriented interview. But speaking in “reporter friendly language” is one of the harder media training concepts to master. One way to improve is to rehearse using the people around you as unwitting reporter surrogates. Try going the whole day speaking in 10-12 second self-contained sound bites. You’ll gain valuable practice, and your colleagues may not be any the wiser.

Learn from the pros (and the amateurs)

I often warn my clients that after a training session they will be cursed with “media trainer’s disease.” It’s a malady characterized by the compulsion to evaluate the interview performances of politicians, celebrities, and other newsmakers. Truth be told, it’s a good kind of disease to have. Keep an eye on those Sunday morning political talk shows while they last. You’ll find a fertile training ground replete with masterful tactics and rookie mistakes. Model your technique after the former, and learn to avoid the latter.

None of these tips should be construed as a substitute for traditional media training at the hands of an experienced instructor. But your coach will inevitably help you use muscles you never even knew you had. And it is up to you to keep them from atrophying.