Media Training: Taking Our Own Advice

Over the course of our careers, we’ve both spent endless hours in media and messaging training sessions with our clients, where either we alone–or, more often, with a professional media trainer–put these folks through the paces before they were to appear on television. We worked on key messages, body language, posture, wardrobe, verbal and physical tics (i.e. ums, uhs and frequent repetition of a word or phrase like “absolutely,” “exactly,” or “I think”) and, most importantly, how to take control of an interview.

Sometimes, we witnessed the transformation of a raw natural talent into a superstar. Other times, we came to the conclusion that no amount of training would ever make a person into a TV personality. But regardless, we never realized how truly difficult it is to prep for a television appearance until we went through media training ourselves in preparation for the release of our book, Be Your Own Best Publicist.

We dedicate an entire chapter to using tips and tricks from the best media trainers, TV producers and on-air talent in the industry to help anyone prepare for a job interview, presentation or speaking engagement, so we knew it would be a good idea to be the trainees for once instead of the trainers.

As a result, we have a newfound respect for the people we’ve sat in those sessions with because the truth is: it’s hard work to come across as comfortable, confident and knowledgeable when there’s a video camera in your face. Here are some lessons we learned about how to knock a TV interview out of the ballpark:

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Kanye should thank his lucky stars for Prince William and Kate Middleton.  Their engagement shifted the spotlight from his most recent media meltdown to better tidings for sure.   But since we all can’t count on a royal betrothal to move the white-hot spotlight off of any mistakes we make in interviews or simple conversation, here are few things that we can all learn from Kanye’s toe-to-toe on the Today Show (not to mention his crazy stage-crashing at the VMAs last year — that could be an entirely different post!):

Don’t be defensive.
Kanye’s interview took a turn for the worse once he imagined that Matt Lauer (and the rest of the Today Show team) had plotted against him. Let’s clarify something right off the bat: News shows often run tape while guests are speaking in studio. Watch the morning shows; you’ll see many, many examples. This is not done as a “gotcha” or to elicit emotion. It’s done to refresh the audience’s memory and to tell the full story. In any case, Kanye went on the defensive and thus derailed what could have been a positive media moment for him.

Be authentic.
Being authentic is the best way to rehabilitate a reputation, sway opinion and change perception. Kanye wanted to do all those things by appearing on the Today Show to apologize to former President Bush for ill-thought-out statements made about Hurricane Katrina. Instead, his interview (and subsequent Twitter rants) reveal his actual need to be right vs. his stated desire to make amends.

Be clear and concise.
Being crystal clear about your goals for the conversation, interview or what-have-you will help you avoid going South like West. Even if the interviewer tries to lead you astray (or, in Kanye’s case runs “unexpected” video while you’re speaking), focusing on your key messages will help you communicate what you want in the most effective way.

Listen to the counsel of others.
As many public figures do, Kanye had hired a highly seasoned, well-respected media trainer to prepare him for this important interview. Instead of following the trainer’s advice, Kanye lost focus, forgot what she taught him and subsequently did significant damage to his already hurting image. His crash-and-burn scenario doesn’t need to be yours. Above all, when it comes to negotiating challenging situations, it’s always good to ask for — and listen to — counsel from those who have been there, done that.

Now we like Kanye’s music as much as the next person but his behavior in the media has actually made us wish we didn’t know the man behind the beats.  Who else do you think could use a trainer to help his/her image?   Tell us so at Twitter (@bestpublicist) or Facebook.