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7 Top Secret Media Training Tips

7 top-secret media training tips

There’s lots you can do to win over your audience during a broadcast media interview, from when the record button starts to when it stops.

Engage the audience. Speak enthusiastically and slowly. Demonstrate positive body language.

What about media training techniques you can use before the recording starts?

What about tips for dealing with journalists after the recording ends?

We’ve outlined 7 top-secret media training tips useful before and after the recording that will help your next media interview.

Before the recording starts


Vince Cable, Media Training

Prior to Lib Dem leader Vince Cable addressing his party conference last month, he released his speech to the press.

Included was a line on what he termed the “erotic spasm” of leaving the European Union.

Unfortunately when he came to the killer line at the end of the speech, he fumbled it completely, calling Brexit an

exotic spresm”.

Cue social media mockery, with one user suggesting it sounded like a rebranded tropical drink.

Although the execution was dreadful, the idea was right.

Work out how you’d like to see the story appear.

What’s my ideal headline? The main points? The sound-bites?

Then build a hit-list of points to make proactively, full of examples.

Even if you are unable to control the final content on a pre-recorded media interview, you can still influence it.

Take control with phrases like:

“Something we’re really interested in is…”

“A great example of this is…”

“The government needs to act now…”.

Work out the obvious and difficult questions 

7 Top Secret Media Training Tips

As well as working out your main points, work out the main questions.

Last week, Persimmon Chief Exec Jeff Fairburn would have benefited from media training techniques after he blankly refused to discuss his £75million bonus with a BBC Reporter.

Or Labour’s Dianne Abbott, who last year floundered her way through an LBC interview in which she discussed recruiting 10,000 police officers for a sum of £300,000.

Or the former Leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, who described building new homes at a cost of £3000 each, before attempting to cough her way out of an interview.

Or the former Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, whose STV interview was ended after an enraged Public Relations Officer cut the interview short.

If you predict the questions first, life becomes easier.

Now you can work out the answers, rehearse them and articulate them during the interview.

Here’s more on how to answer media interview questions.

Show warmth and willingness 

Media Training in Glasgow/Edinburgh

I sat on a media panel recently in Edinburgh, which interviewed job candidates to assess if they were ‘media-ready’.

When we fed back to the Board, tasked with making the appointment, I commented as much on the body language and tone of voice before the camera started rolling.

Warmly shaking a journalist by the hand as you walk in shows confidence, but also willingness.

Simple questions such as “how are you?” carry great weight before the interview begins.

They show that you’re available and willing to play ball.

Remember that you have the same aim: to create something interesting for people to listen to.

If it looks like you just want to get the interview over and done with and then leave, that will come across to the reporter.

Remember, the journalist will have editorial control.

They can decide if they spoke to the “energetic boss of the firm tasked with turning things around” or the “under-pressure Chief Executive at the centre of the storm”.

So make a good first impression.

Introduce topics of interest 

Media Training in Glasgow/Edinburgh

I spoke to a group of consultants in Glasgow this week, one of whom suggested the following interview technique:

Always ask the journalist: what’s your first question?

In our view, that’s bad execution, however based on the right idea.

Asking that question presents two problems:

  1. The journalist often has yet to consider the questions;
  2. You risk annoying the journalist, who would rather have a conversation than follow an agreed script.

Build up a rapport with the journalists, and before you start, introduce points that you’d like to make:

There are certain issues I’m really keen to get across: our investment in artificial intelligence”.

You’re significantly increasing your chances of being asked about these issues, without forcing your agenda on the reporter.

Hang around 

Media Training in Glasgow/Edinburgh

(Credit: AFP / Jewel SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s fascinating to watch people’s body language in the immediate aftermath of a media interview.

Like Usain Bolt, they’re out the traps and off the seat as soon as they hear the words “thank you”.

They look directly at the camera, rather than holding eye contact with the reporter.

Looking like they just want to get out of there alive.

Use the time immediately after an interview to continue to build rapport and clarify any issues that the reporter is struggling with.

You may decide you’d like another go at an answer, which you’re far more likely to get if you hang around and discuss the issue further.

Stay in interview mode 

7 Top Secret Media Training Tips

When the Edinburgh trams project hit a difficult period in 2011, the Chairman of the city council’s tram firm took part in a two-hour media conference.

Our trainer Marjory Kenny, then Head of Comms at the Council, described it as a masterclass.

After the last question has been asked and the crowd packing away their laptops, he vowed to:

“clean up Edinburgh and stop it looking like Tripoli.”

Surprise, surprise: that was the headline that was used.

Stay firmly in interview mode until the interview has finished and you’ve left the building.

One of the reasons people tell us they leave immediately after a media interview is fear of being caught out ‘off camera’.

That’s why you only ever write an email, send a text, make a call or have a conversation if you’d be happy seeing it printed as a news headline.

Throw-away comment ready to leave your mouth?  Then, be prepared to throw it away.

Build a relationship 

7 Top Secret Media Training Tips

During our media training courses in Glasgow, Edinburgh or around the world, people often talk about “getting it out the way”.

It’s easy to see a media interview that way, especially in a crisis.

The media always allows you to amplify your message.

Building a relationship with journalists means you are first in line for comment the next time something good happens.

If you’re approachable, available and articulate, you’ll become the voice of the industry.

That can be gold-dust for your career, and it’s great for business.

Media training courses 

If you’d like to know more about how to engage the media, court the press or impress your audience at home, come on our media training course in Glasgow, Edinburgh or beyond.

You can book a session here.

Andrew McFarlan is the Managing Director of Pink Elephant Communications.


You can view his profile here.


25th October 2018 featured in Blog by Pink Elephant.

Photo of Vince Cable by Liberal Democrats on / CC BY-ND.

Photo by Martin Lopez, Burak K, Mikes Photos, Somachi Kongkamsri from Pexels, Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.  Credit: YUI MOK/PA, Telegraph.  Bruce Adams, Daily Mail.

25th October 2018 Featured in: Blog, Media training blogs By:

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