“Do You Mind If I Ask?” Why Media Skills Training Is No Longer Just for CEOs

by | 27 Feb 2024 | Insights

It’s not just CEOs who need to hone their skills as media performers. In today's world, media skills training is for any employee of an organisation.

Media skills training has long been a core offering for PR agencies and journalists-turned-consultants. Historically, this was the specialised training that CEOs and senior managers undertook ahead of some newsworthy activity for the company: an important earnings announcement; a merger or growth story; or potential bad news requiring some careful handling.

Training was about ensuring the CEO or senior management would be able to make the most of the media opportunity. Success would be measured on how well they got their messages across in a way that reflected well on the company’s brand, connected positively with their target audience, and convinced the watching world that they knew what they were doing!

A spokesperson could be anyone, whether you like it or not

But in today’s fast-paced business world, it is no longer just CEOs who need to worry about framing a good response when they have to perform to the media.

With the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, there is a constant need for new content, content, content. This means any company representative could find themselves asked for an opinion on camera / microphone, literally anywhere: a trade show, an industry association meeting, or even an internal company event. The same media skills required for an appearance on the 9 o’clock news are needed in all these situations too.

Get ready for ad hoc interviews

The prospect of agreeing to participate in an ad hoc interview request would seem to go against a key tenet of media skills training theory: don’t get ‘doorstepped’ or agree to an interview where you have not had time to prepare.

But we move with the times, and that means there will be occasions where preparation time is a luxury that’s not available. More than ever, it is incumbent on anyone who could plausibly speak on behalf of their company to be able to reach for sound bites on any key topic.

Does that sound scary to you? After all, for many people the prospect of speaking in public is famously a fate worse than death.

The good news is that anyone can learn to be a good media performer – even those who would rather avoid the limelight at all costs. Good media performance is a learned skill, and, with a little bit of planning and practice, we can all get better at it.

Practice, practice, practice

We can learn from others who perform well in media interviews. Something to bear in mind when listening or watching an interviewee tackle a seemingly tough topic. Then practice, practice, practice. That is why the most important part of media skills training is the series of mock interviews that are built into the programme. 

Time and care need to go into ensuring that these practice interviews are as tailored as possible to mirror real-world interview situations. Methodically distilling a number of key messages into easily understood points is a skill that gets easier the more often we do it.

The icing on the media skills training cake is then to ensure you get each of those messages across in an engaging and memorable way for the audience. The key requirement is to ‘stand out’ – in particular if there are a number of people being interviewed – but stand out for all the right reasons.

How to end the interview

‘The other key point to remember, and I will finish here…’ – ending the interview in that way, ensures that you leave the audience (and the interviewer) with a final, memorable comment and that is what I want to do now.

I will go back to the title of this blog post and ask that if you take away one thing from this text, it’s that it’s not just CEOs who need to hone their skills as media performers – media skills training is for any employee of an organisation because in today’s world, the possibility of an interview is lurking around every corner.

You know what they say – fail to prepare…

Media Skills Training Is No Longer Just for CEOs

Cullen Communications provides TV and radio interview skills training to build capability, understanding, and expertise so you can face the media with confidence. Find out about our media training services here.

Pearse O'Loughlin, Client Director at Cullen Communications

About the author

Pearse O’Loughlin, Client Director with Cullen Communications, has more than 20 years of experience across all areas of communication and works principally with clients in the corporate and consumer sectors. One of the most experienced automotive PR professionals in Ireland, Pearse specialises in media relations, event management, internal communications and strategic consultancy.

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