Hughes PR

How to prepare for the media

Mark Williams writes…

There’s a great deal of satisfaction for PR practitioners in not just raising the profile of a client through the media, but in protecting their reputation or brand when things aren’t quite going to plan.

Media training and issues management preparation are still critical elements of any communications strategy, and particularly more so in the age of digital media.  I get quite a kick out of seeing a client with little or no past media experience confidently handling a difficult media interview or press conference, because they’ve done the hard work and preparation beforehand.

Let’s start with preparation. A popular approach is to draft a list of questions that a journalist may ask, and then think carefully about how you might respond (Q&As).  This can be a bit of a bruising exercise.  Clients need to understand that some journalists may ask subjective and personal questions to elicit a subjective and sometimes emotional rather than objective response.

It’s important to prepare clients for questions like “You must be personally embarrassed that your company has allowed this to happen?” and not just the inevitable enquiry “What went wrong?”

Responses to these questions should be objective, factual, honest and to the point.  The more work you do in preparing for various questions, the more likely you are to stay ‘on-message’ when facing the media.

This is not a matter of setting the “spin”.  (In short, “spin doesn’t win”).  Rather it’s about delivering an accurate message in a manner which is responsive to the needs of the media and which communicates effectively with your target audience – and theirs.

Which leads us to media training. It’s one thing to prepare responses to media enquiries.  It’s another thing entirely to be able to provide these answers in front of a room full of experienced and inquisitive journalists and a bank of TV cameras.

Hughes PR’s media training partner, Ron Kandelaars, has shared his wealth of media and public relations experience through media and presentation training courses for the past 20 years.  His practical ‘hands on’ approach to training has proved its value for many of our clients in refining and delivering key messages to media or live audiences and also protecting reputations in the face of corporate issues or crises.

A few random tips to remember: When talking with the media, you should avoid an ‘us and them’ mentality.  For the most part, journalists are simply looking to report on the news of the day.  They’ll ask the tough questions, but they will (or should) accurately report your response.  If you’re deliberately combative, media will feed off this negativity and are less likely to give you the benefit of the doubt when writing their story.

In the age of social media, it’s also important not to feel pressured into thinking you need to respond to a Tweet or Facebook post straight away.  An accurate and strategic response should always take precedence over a quick tactical response.

To put this in perspective – when you’re interviewed by media, it’s more often than not a ‘one-on-one’.  When you reply on Facebook, every one of your potentially thousands of followers or fans stands ready to critique your response, and they will call your bluff if they think the statement is wrong or that you’re trying to hide from the truth.

Hughes PR is a communications and public relations consultancy with proven and extensive experience in publicity and media relations, issues management, crisis management, digital media and social media strategy and implementation, community consultation, event management, media training, publications and strategic problem solving. Find out more.


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