Get interviewed but get real

This is the ninth of ten in a series of blog posts about what media training trainees think when they come to a session. We talk here about interviews that trainees face at typical media training sessions.

If and when you take media training, the class will include practice interviews. These typically will be conducted by the media trainer sitting across from each trainee. Some trainers may conduct these interviews one by one in a separate room. The best way (we do it) is to conduct each interview in front of the whole class. Face it, even when this is not your preference, every trainee will go through the exercise. There is a necessary stress level when performing in front of your peers. Also, each trainee learns from everyone else during this interview segment. We have never run into a situation where this kind of interview model has caused any person to be ridiculed by peers or to be severely embarrassed by his or her interview in front of colleagues.

The interview is invaluable if viewed by the PR people in your organization; it gives them a good idea of how potential spokespersons will look and talk on camera and, in our experience, how organization messages will sound in an interview.

Of course, the interview is essential for trainees since it enables them to put into practice the things they have just learned and to see if there are areas in which they need improvement. The best situation is when the trainer has time to conduct two interviews per person. In our experience, the first interview will contain a few glitches but the second, in a majority of cases, will be very good and almost error-free.

Unfortunately, many media trainers (most of whom have not worked in major media) believe their role is to scare the hell out of trainees. They typically ask generic questions in confrontational ways, trying to trick or trap their students. Some even yell or argue with trainees. This is not the way 99% of interviews by real journalists are conducted. All this type of training accomplishes is to make potentially good spokespeople too cynical or frightened ever to want to talk to media.

A good media trainer will do his/her homework and ask real-life questions in a level-headed way about the trainee’s real job and the organization’s real policies, products, services and messages. Get real or get misleading, irrelevant media training.


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