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Five media training rules

Every day on radio and TV news programme, we hear people interviewed.

Some are very polished, some are clearly nervous, some speak in a monotone, some have no clear idea what they want to say, and some have that magical ability to connect with the listener, to be natural, to get their point across in an interesting and memorable way.

And when we hear these, we perk up, and we take note of what they say, we mention it to friends, family and colleagues.

Achieving this should be the goal of every person giving an interview to a journalist or reporter.

When we run media training courses, we give detailed advice on how to prepare for an interview and how to come across well.

In essence, anyone in the front line for their organisation, who has to speak to the press as part of their job, should follow these five rules whenever they have to give an interview.

  1. Don’t ever do an interview off the cuff: always give yourself time to think about it, to prepare. Without preparation, you won’t be clear about what you want to say, how to say it and what you might be asked.
  2. Make sure you know your subject and more: research all the potential issues and topics which might be brought up. We have all heard the journalist’s final throwaway question: “While you’re on, can I just ask you about …”
  3. Work out what your key messages should be and take every opportunity to make them during the interview. Ideally include them in your first answer and your final answer (and those in between), as the first will help you to take control of the interview, and the last, your final thought, is most likely to be what listeners will remember of what you said.
  4. When you’re preparing, think about how you will illustrate the points you want to make: if you can use examples, anecdotes, analogies and personal experience that will help you connect with your audience.
  5. Be yourself & don’t try to take on someone else’s persona. The most memorable and effective interviewees are those who not too formal, but are natural, authentic and conversational.

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Ann Wright has more than 25 years’ experience working with the media – from both sides of the fence. She spent a decade as a newspaper reporter before moving into television, where she worked on high profile and prestigious programmes including live state occasions, consumer investigations and news. She is co-founder of Rough House Media, which provides training courses, strategic advice and video production.

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