Media appearances, the unwritten rules

Media appearances, the unwritten rules

Steve Blears Media Training Podcast

Media Interviews: The Unwritten Rules. We are discussing the unwritten rules of appearing in the media, specifically TV and radio news. But a lot of this advice also extends to other media, print, online, and podcasts.

Right, let’s get into it.
Unwritten rule No. 1: You won’t get the questions in advance
What? That doesn’t seem fair. Why does this happen?
Well, there are a couple of reasons.
Journalists prefer not to share interview questions beforehand because it’s 100% likely that you’ll over-rehearse your answers, possibly even script them in advance, and that will look and sound terrible on air.

Journalists want to encourage spontaneous, authentic responses

Journalists want to encourage spontaneous, authentic responses rather than over-rehearsed answers. You’ll sound better speaking naturally and off the cuff.
I can hear you thinking, off-the-cuff! That sounds like a nightmare…

Don’t worry, some tips are coming up.

Public apologies, how to say sorry in the media and mean it

Public apologies, how to say sorry in the media and mean it

Steve Blears Media Training Podcast

Public apologies, how to say sorry in the media and mean it. If you are here because you’re a company executive with a serious cock-up on your hand, buckle up! In the next 10 minutes, I’m going to walk you through how to say sorry and mean it.
How to write a media apology: The fine line between expressing regret and apologising
When planning an apology firstly, ask yourself:

Do I need to express regret, or do I need to apologise?

Now this may sound like the same thing, but being sorry about something and actually apologising are very different. And the difference is: Fault.

Off-the-record journalism

Why off-the-record journalism is riskier than you think

Steve Blears Media Training Podcast

Understanding off-the-record. What do these phrases mean and when should you use them:
-Off-the-record
-This is for background
-This is for guidance
Let’s get started with the term everyone’s heard but rarely fully understands – and that is off-the-record.
What does off-the-record mean?
In my 25 years as a journalist, I rarely encountered this and rarely agreed to it. Reason coming up.
So, what does it mean? Well, the common belief is it means, “Let me tell you a story, but you didn’t hear it from me.” Strictly speaking, that’s not the case.

Here’s how the Associated Press news agency defines off-the-record:

On-the-record means the information you share can be used without any restrictions whatsoever.

Off-the-record. This means the information cannot be used for publication.

And that means everything, no detail, no names, no hints, no “a source from within so-and-so says so-and-so”.

Nothing.

Off-the-record means, just that. This shouldn’t appear on air or in print.

Just to confuse things, some journalists and their sources think off-the-record means “unattributable.” You can use this but just don’t quote me.

My advice is, before going off-the-record you need to be clear that both you and the journalist you’re dealing with have an understanding of what you mean.

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What are key messages in the media?

Steve Blears Media Training Podcast

What are key messages in the media? Key messages are designed to be concise and clear, They’ll include the most important points for your audience to remember. And they’re designed to engage your audience, influence their thoughts, and motivate action.

What should be left out of key media messaging?

Let’s kick off by talking about stuff that shouldn’t go in your key messaging.

Here’s my brief and incomplete list of elements to avoid:

Excessive Details: Avoid cluttering your message with too much information, phone numbers, addresses, or complex technical details. That’s just distracting.
Repetition of your business name: Yes, reinforcing key points is a good idea, but excessively repeating the name of your organisation will make you look and sound like a chump. Also, you’ll never get invited back.
Jargon and technical terms: I’ve done a whole podcast episode on this topic: Why avoid corporate speak and office jargon in media interviews?
Off-topic information: “Oh, here’s another point on top of my point, I’ve just remembered.”
Sales pitches: Nothing is more of an audience turn-off during a media interview. If it’s pre-recorded, it’ll get cut, so save your breath.

Give your leader feedback after a media interview

Give your leader feedback after a media interview

Steve Blears Media Training Podcast

Give your leader feedback after a media interview. Effectively provide feedback to senior leaders after interviews on TV, radio and podcasts. Navigating the challenges of giving feedback after a media interview
Ok, if you are a PR or Comms professional I know this is a headache. Giving constructive or mildly critical feedback to your CEO or someone more senior is a common pain point.

It may be you don’t have the skills or confidence to tackle these issues head-on. Often you’ll have leaders who are quite set in their ways when it comes to media appearances.

Maybe they take your briefing on key messages and just ignore them. Perhaps they’ll head into a media interview and just do it their way. Infuriating.

So coming up, my tips on how to give feedback after a media interview.

Why avoid corporate speak and office jargon in media interviews?

Why avoid corporate speak and office jargon in media interviews?

Steve Blears Media Training Podcast

Why avoid corporate speak and office jargon in media interviews? Corporate speak won’t make you sound clever on air it’ll alienate the audience, be a switch off and be a waste of a journalist’s time.

Remember, in your organisation, chances are that you spend most of your time with a specific type of person.

For example, when I worked for the BBC, many of my colleagues were white, middle class and university-educated.

But when you are on-air you’re not speaking to your peers, you’re speaking to a mass audience made up of a diverse group of people from all sorts of backgrounds. It’s essential to use language that’s accessible to everyone. It’s not dumbing down, it’s about being clear.

Also, just because you are talking on TV, Radio or a Podcast, no one has a duty to listen to you. Think about how you consume the media. If someone talks in office lingo that you don’t understand, you don’t whip out your phone and Google it, you zone out or switch off. If your language is laden with jargon, you risk losing their interest quickly. That’s a wasted chance to share your key message.

Media training podcast

Media interview preparation checklist

Steve Blears Media Training Podcast

Media interview preparation checklist. Let’s create a media interview preparation checklist. Sharpen your pencil. This is for you if you’ve been invited on TV, Radio or a podcast. It’ll help you get your ducks in a row before you appear on air. 1. Research the media outlet and journalist. Before you go into that interview, it’s crucial to do a bit of digging. Who’s this journalist and what’s their outlet all about? So, if they’re from the BBC, are they from a specific show? Are they a national or regional reporter? Understanding this really shapes how you’ll prepare. A lot of journalists are pretty focused on their field, so knowing their background can help you understand the types of questions they’ll ask and their style of interviewing.

How to create a founders' origin story

How to create a founders’ origin story

Steve Blears Media Training Podcast

How to create a founders’ origin story. step-by-step detail how you can create your own founders’ narrative using a basic rags-to-riches story structure. Founders’ stories are uber popular, CEO interviews take up a huge amount of podcast real estate. You’ll hear them on podcasts like How I Built This with Guy Raz and radio shows including Desert Island Disks.

But if you’re a founder or the founder’s marketing & PR department why should you consider preparing and telling your story?

Well a compelling, one-hour-long podcast interview about how you made it, will be an enduring record.

It’s a narrative from your point of view about your success that crucially you have written. Getting this first draft down is important because it’ll become a reliable source for future stories told about you by journalists.
You’ll lay down the facts – as you see them – putting a marker in the ground saying, “This is how it happened.”

How to answer hostile or negative questions from a journalist

How to answer hostile or negative questions from a journalist

Steve Blears Media Training Podcast

In this episode, practical techniques and strategies for effectively managing difficult interviews. Also, how to handle combative interviewing styles, identify and respond to loaded questions, and maintain your composure under pressure.

Whatever you taste in TV news these sort of hard-hitting interviews are seen as ratings grabbers by the broadcasters. They’ll find an issue people like to argue about, be it immigration, transgender equality, or emissions charges for city centres, and we’re off to the races.

You’ll witness hostile or negative questioning on talk-based radio and TV shows and magazine news programmes.

Unusually for a former journalist, I find this sort of broadcasting a turn-off but it appears to be growing in popularity.

How to be authentic in a media interview

How to be authentic in a media interview

Steve Blears Media Training Podcast

In this episodes simple techniques to build trust and sound genuine while appearing on TV, Radio or podcasts.

The number one bit of advice you usually hear about being authentic in the media is:

“Just be yourself.” But what if yourself isn’t great?

The challenge of authenticity in media interviews
“Just being yourself” is an issue for many of us because let’s face it, we’ve all got aspects of ourselves we’d really rather not broadcast.

Also, when you are live on air, or being interviewed on TV, Radio or even a podcast. It’s nerve-wracking.

Your palms are sweaty. Adrenaline is coursing through your veins. In short, you’re cr***ing yourself.

Even seasoned broadcasters with years of on-air experience struggle with this. In my career, the spike of anxiety I got when the mic went live never really went away, trying to look authentic and in control is a struggle.