Thursday, June 24, 2010

Use Creativity Correctly in Your Media Relations

(a guest post by Jonathan Bernstein)

Creative writers and thinkers can be some of the best – and some of the worst – media sources. Because we’re creative, we’re good at coming up with what journalists call “golden nuggets,” pithy sound bytes which make their stories read or sound better. For example, I’m fond of talking about the “Three C’s of Crisis Communications,” the notion that a good communicator needs to come across as Confident, Competent and Compassionate. Reporters eat that up. Ditto for another phrase I coined some time ago, “In the absence of communication, rumor and innuendo fill the gap.”

However, there is such a thing as being TOO creative, and getting caught up in hyperbole that turns a good interview into what sounds – to a reporter – like advertising copy or like someone trying to sound cute for cute’s sake, both being a real journalistic turn-off.

So, with that introduction, please enjoy this excerpt from Keeping the Wolves at Bay – Media Training:

Welcome to a new way of thinking about media relations. Even if you have given many ‘good news’ interviews in the past, you’re almost certain to say or do things you’ll regret if you have not been media trained when in a ‘high pressure’ media interview situation. Heck, you may say or do things you’ll regret even if you are media trained – but it’s less likely!

There are some other benefits to this process. Formal media training will:

· Help you develop and refine key messages, to see what really works under the stress of simulated interviews ( and good media trainers will make you forget it’s simulated).

· Optimize your chances of achieving balanced coverage. You’ll notice I say ‘optimize’ – there are no guarantees in this arena.

· Improves skills that transfer to many other types of public speaking – e.g., community presentations, testifying at hearings or in court, giving webinars, etc.

· Allows you to identify who’s an effective spokesperson in general, and who, specifically, may be better for different types of interviews. See Section 4: Media Logistics. And who, perhaps, should not be a spokesperson at all.

In the six years since I published the first edition of this manual, I have seen a dramatic difference in the results of my media training when trainees read the manual pre-training. I think it would have the same result no matter who conducted the training, so I encourage you to take the time to make that happen.

Media relations is, of course, only one component of crisis communications (CLS footnote: Working Style Analysis is another), one of many methods of getting messages to your stakeholders, both internal and external. In times of crisis it’s absolutely essential that your communicators be trained in all those methods. And that they practice their skills regularly, which is why this manual now includes, for the first time, a special section about how to practice media interview skills effectively without a trainer present.

(We invite you to join us for the Keeping the Wolves at Bay virtual tour. The schedule and more details can be found at For more information and to get your copy, visit or

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