Media Training Opens the Door to Building Lasting Relationships with Reporters

Posted on April 1, 2021

By Becky Quinlan, Director of Content, Offleash

If you ask executives the first word that comes to mind when they hear the phrase “we’ve got an interview lined up,” the responses vary.

 “Panic.” “Scary.” “Oh sh*t!”

Much of what fuels this anxiety is the fear of the unknown.

“What if I’m asked a question I can’t answer?”

“What if the reporter gets off on a bizarre tangent or presses me for information I can’t share publicly?”

“He said this was ‘off the record.’ Is there such a thing, really?”

When it comes to communicating with media, it’s key to remember that there are variables you can control (research, prep, practice) and those you cannot (questions the reporter will ask, if/when the reporter will write and publish the piece). Media training focuses on those variables we can control and learning:

  • How to make a connection and communicate your message without relying on overused or hard-to-decipher tech jargon
  • How to effectively describe your company, what your company does, what market problem your technology addresses — and why this all matters
  • How to use numbers, analogies, stories and examples
  • How to naturally weave in (and repeat) key messages
  • How to use “bridging” and “flagging” to answer difficult reporter questions
  • How to (most importantly) be authentic and tell a good story

During the actual interview, how you tell your story is key. In broadcast, for example, interview sound bites are usually 10-15 seconds. Vocal variety, pitch, and articulation are important for making your story memorable — and this goes for broadcast, print, podcasts or any type of medium. Experienced interviewees know that speaking in a deliberative/declarative fashion, avoiding “you know”-type filler words and taking the occasional breath (to pause) are key to communicating effectively with media.

Offleash helps clients reduce pre-interview anxiety and field any reporter question with a full media training package. We recently conducted media training with five executives, including the CEO, CTO, vice president of products, vice president of marketing and senior vice president of operations of a major data company. The training included a 90-minute media training presentation as well as one-on-one reporter mock interviews. Offleash has two former reporters on staff: I worked as a TV reporter/anchor at two Northern California stations, and our content chief, Steve Eisenstadt, worked for almost 15 years as a print reporter.

After the media training overview session, we assume the role of reporter. One executive may meet with a reporter from SiliconANGLE, while another may be interviewed by a reporter from Forbes or Mad Money, depending on the training objectives. The first question from our “reporter” is usually: “What does your company do?” All executives from a company should have a consistent, clear, understandable (non-jargon) answer to this question. Additional questions may cover market need, product specifics, customer use cases, commentary on breaking industry news, and more. After the interview, we share tips on what worked and how to fine-tune answers for future (real) interviews.

Offleash offers media training as an added service within our growing content bureau. We also offer a “messaging refresh” session, in which we help executives develop company taglines, descriptors and boilerplate messaging that describes what the company does, how it does it, and why it matters.

All of our content services are designed to help our clients develop and build relationships with reporters. Executives ask: How can I spark and maintain an ongoing dialogue with a reporter? How can I serve as a resource, so that reporters seek me out for commentary? It all starts with media training, preparation and practice…and good storytelling. Stay tuned for more updates from Offleash on our media training program and other content services.

Becky has worked in technology PR for more than 20 years, specializing in communications strategy, content development and media relations. Contact Becky here