Media Skills

Where the rubber meets the road

It is commonly known that successfully addressing potentially explosive issues with the press is singularly the most important skill of a company representative.

NBC commentator David Brinkley reminds us that; “when a reporter asks questions, he is not working for the person being questioned whether businessman, politician or bureaucrat, he is working for readers and listeners”.

The “typical” media training approach is to start out with generic “theory training” and then do role-plays.

Sometimes this works, oftentimes it’s a dismal failure.

Why? Too much theory, all at once, with little time to practice the individual skills independently.

A skilled media interviewer is like a skilled tennis player. They are skilled in a multitude of plays – not just how to answer antagonistic questions without giving away the farm.

These skills to tactfully deal with reporters’ objectives requires more than just an understanding of those objectives. It takes know-how, practice and often courage to effectively deal with surprise, hostility, untruths, personal invasion, pressure and stress, to say nothing of both the reporter’s and ones own emotions.

To be truly regarded as a skilled media spokesperson, there are 5 specific skills that must be mastered.

Skill Set #1: Your message relayed

Typically, a spokesperson has a set of core messages they want to get across.

However, the media has their own agenda with their own messages they want to elicit from the interviewee.

Knowing what one’s own messages are is but half the battle. Knowing how to get the press (vastly different approaches dependent upon the medium) to capture that message is entirely a different story.

There’s unquestionably an art to doing that. Louws knows this art and can teach you to employ it.

Skills Set #2: Sound biting

Media’s time-frame and space set for messages is very much at odds to the way we naturally and normally speak.

Converting an idea into a sound bite is a skill unto itself.

You will learn this skill as do the paid headliners of every newspaper, network and social networking Blogger, Tweeter, Facebooker and Utuber learn.

Skill Set #3: The 12 Rules of the Press Game

Unless you have worked within the press core, understanding the game that is perpetuated to gather and sell news is almost beyond comprehension.

Try this fundamental media principle on for size. “The only good news is bad news – and only bad news is good news”.

This axiom will be vigorously defended as unfair and slanderous by the media – however the proof is all around us. Ever seen a national newspaper with the majority of its front page headlines being about good news?

Louws will teach you the game. Knowing it from the inside will give you the tools, skills and confidence to play it to your – not their – advantage.

Skills Set #4: The Fireball

This is the one most feared by even the most eloquent and brave.

It’s when the evidence against you is so overwhelming, you have no other choice but to acquiesce. So it will seem.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The media is counting on the intimidation factor. They will milk it for all its worth. They will pose as the conscience of the masses.

Your job, however, is to safeguard the sanctity of your organization and those who make their and their families living from it.

We will teach you how to achieve that without appearing defensive, devious or evasive.

Skill Set #5: The Soft Lob

Many a corporate representative has been caught completely off guard by this apparently inoffensive media strategy.

It is designed to ensure you let your guard down to a sufficient level that enables the zinger to throw you for such a loop, your only recourse is defensiveness.

And it’s in that moment you know you have been hoodwinked but so cleverly that to do anything but give them what they want makes you look guilty.

This technique was first perfected by lawyers and brilliantly adopted by the press.

It’s a favorite that once easily and quickly recognized and with the right skill set allows you to double back and turn the tables so abruptly that its effectiveness is decimated.

Training Approach

Louws has tuned its approach to media training to a fine art.

There are 4 sequential Phases followed, whether we conduct one-on-one or group training.

Phase 1: Pre-Reading Material

There are generic “rules” but these can be read in 30 minutes. This will be provided to each spokesperson as pre-reading material. These are included in the overall training fee.

Phase 2: Pre-Training Questionnaire

Each spokesperson will be given a questionnaire to complete. This will help us customize our content, training and coaching to their individual media interview requirements. For example, some might be television, others face-to-face and telephone, print media interviews, including “headline news” reporters during a crisis situation.

Phase 3: Hands-on Training and Rehearsals

The real way to address media training is for actual rehearsals of real media situations that each spokesperson will face.  This hands-on training will be customized for each spokesperson.  We will simulate real interviews; whether it is on the phone, in front of a camera, etc.  Our goal is to make the real situation seem easy. Liberal use of video replays will be used, for it alone is the single most neutral judge of performance.

Phase 4: Customized Press Checklist

Each spokesperson will receive a customized press checklist for use in all future interviews that is specific to their media needs.

Key Benefits to the spokesperson trained through these 4 Phases

You learn the secrets to getting your message across as intended vs. the media’s “take” on the issue.

You are armed with the tools and resultant courage necessary to effectively deal with any interview situation.

Dramatically improves your presence of mind under fire.

The most unique benefit of this training is that it puts you firmly in charge of yourself, the interview and the message to be communicated.

Training Formats

There are a number of options.

Option A: Experienced

A 4 – 8 hour, one-on-one coaching session for each spokesperson. In some cases the hours are divided into two or three sessions.

This is assuming that the spokesperson being trained has fairly extensive media interview experience.

We define this experience as at least once a quarter for the past 5 – 10 years.

Option B: Inexperienced

Anything less than the experience cited in Option A would fall into this category.

An 8 – 16 hour, one-on-one session for each spokesperson. The hours are divided into 3 hour segments over a few weeks.

Option C: Group Training

In the case of a team of spokespeople needing to be trained, we offer a 1 – 2 day workshop dependent upon a) experience, and b) number of spokespeople to be trained.

There is a maximum number of students per workshop that affords sufficient drilling and coaching time to start mastering the skill sets needed.

In all cases, the coaching and training is customized to each executive’s diverse media engagement requirements and their level of experience with the media.

Who has chosen Louws for their media spokesperson training?

♦ Executives of The Kaufman Group (non-profit)

♦ Ballerinas of the American Ballet Theater

♦ CEO of Chrysler

♦ CEO of American Savings (congressional hearings)

♦ CEO Coors

♦ Executive team at Ciba Geigy in Switzerland

♦ Founder and Executives of Marion Merrill Dow (pharma)

♦ Executive team of Bayer

♦ Executives of Novartis and Genentech (biotech)

♦ Executives of Citrix (go to meeting software)

♦ Executives of Prudential (insurance)

♦ Executives of Pizza Hut (QSR)

♦ Executives of Pepsi

♦ Executives of Yum Brands

♦ Executives of Fed Ex Kinko’s

♦ Executives of Burger King and McDonald’s

♦ CEO of Univision (hispanic network)

♦ The Bass Brothers (investment fund managers)

♦ Chairman of Wunderman (direct marketing)

♦ Senator Bob Dole

♦ Senator Elizabeth Dole

♦ Senator John McCain

♦ Coach Bobby Bowden

Next Steps:

If what you have read so far is consistent with what you are looking for from Media Training, please consider giving Louws an opportunity to make good on what we promise to deliver.

Telephone: (520) 664 -1881


Mail: Media Training Practice Director ~ P.O. Box 130 ~ Vail ~ Arizona ~ USA ~ 85641




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