Debbie Friez, WWPR Past-President

It’s all about good story telling. This was the top advice from media trainer Keith Blackman, principal of Blackman Media Solutions (BMS) at the March 3 lunch discussion for Young MC’s and Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR) members at the National Press Club (NPC). Blackman says he asks those he trains to go home and write a fairy tale about their company, expressing the key advantages in the tale. He also shows them how reporters structure their stories, so they understand the process.
For training and live interviews, Blackman says to focus on:

  1. Authenticity
  2. Control-get in front of the story
  3. Flexibility-be nimble and allow your answers to change as the story changes.

To prepare clients for a real interview, Blackman actually starts a mock interview from the moment they walk in the door for training—almost like an ambush. He will ask them questions as they are being set-up with the microphone and then play back their reactions and answers. Spokespeople need to remember they are being interviewed even when they think the camera is off. Preparing the client for a variety of interview formats is very important to make them feel ready for any scenario.

For a typical media session, Blackman discusses setting the scene with the client. The pre-interview time is usually under three minutes, so spokespeople need to set the landscape for the interview quickly. Interviewees should also front-load all answers and go into perpetual elevator pitch mode. In other words, the question-answer mode should be question then answer and then a key message. He also reminds them to use bridging and flagging to help guide the interview.
Blackman stresses the notion of threes. People tend to recall things in threes, so you should have three key messages to convey.
Key dos and don’ts to remember:

  • Don’t speculate.
  • Don’t guess, but offer to follow-up later with the correct answer.
  • Have every interview staffed.
  • Don’t use “no comment.”
  • Be transparent.
  • Stick to a basic color palate, when it comes to clothes.
  • Makeup is important for HD TV.
  • Avoid using uhms.

Have you done a media training with your spokesperson lately? What other tips do you have to share?