Media training skills: How to manage the nerves when you talk to journalists

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How to manage the nerves when you talk to journalists

Being asked to carry out a media interview can evoke feelings of flattery and fear in equal measure.

Whether it is television, radio or print we regularly find on our media training courses that nerves are the undoing of even the most senior of spokespeople.

Sweaty palms, stomach butterflies and other symptoms are all perfectly normal, particularly when interviews take place in an unfamiliar environment like a television studio.

In short, nerves can be a great hindrance.

So how do you overcome them and ride the adrenaline wave to ensure you make the most of the opportunity an interview presents?

Here are our tips:

 

Small steps

If the thought of facing questions from a journalist just seems too daunting, consider doing an interview on the intranet or staff magazine to build your confidence.

This could serve as a gentle introduction to the interview process, while still helping you to improve your interview skills and get your message across with clarity.

On the intranet you could perhaps face some questions from colleagues, through a live chat, testing your ability to respond under pressure.

 

Print

For many spokespeople, print interviews can feel a lot less daunting than taking to the airwaves on radio and television.

The setting is generally more relaxed and familiar than a studio environment and in many cases there is the chance to get back to the reporter after the interview with further information and to check facts.

While it is obviously important spokespeople are not complacent about print interviews, getting a few articles with trade and local press under the belt can be a good way to eradicate nerves.

'Getting a few print interviews under the belt can be a great way for spokespeople to eradicate nerves' http://bit.ly/2CN32Pn @mediafirstltd

 

 

Don’t over prepare

You might think that the more you prepare the less likely you are to be hit by nerves in the media interview.

But we often find that swotting up on huge briefing documents for hours on end actually makes spokespeople more nervous.

'Swotting up on huge briefing documents for hours on end can actually make spokespeople more nervous' http://bit.ly/2CN32Pn via @mediafirstltd

Not only does it build the interview up in their mind but it also often leads to them becoming muddled and unable to recall key information when the pressure is on.

Preparation should focus on honing the key message to something which is memorable andtruly resonates, and on anticipating the questions the journalist is likely to ask.  

 

Cut out the stress

If you are feeling the nerves you really don’t need any additional stress. If the interview is taking place in a studio, make sure you arrive in plenty of time. If it is taking place in your offices, ensure you can’t be interrupted by calls or colleagues.

Often there is time before an in interview to chat with the reporter. This can range from a couple of minutes to about half an hour while things are getting set up. Take this time to try to build some rapport with the journalist, but remember you are 'on the record'. 

 

You’re the expert

It’s important to remember that you are the expert in the interview. You will know more about the subject than the reporter and they want to talk to you because of your expertise.

'Spokespeople must remember that they are the expert in media interviews' http://bit.ly/2CN32Pn via @mediafirstltd

 

Remember who you are really talking to

The key thing with any media interview is to remember that ultimately it is not about talking to a journalist.

The reporter is a conduit between you and the audience – your customers.  

 

Focus on your breathing

Take a few moments to focus on your breathing before a media interview to help you relax. Take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth while doing relaxation exercises like shoulder roles.

 

Bring the human interest

Adding some human examples and anecdotes in your early responses will not only help you to find your feet in the interview but it will also help you establish some control.

Reporters are always looking for the human-interest angle and the audience will love hearing stories about other people as they have an emotional appeal which cannot be matched.

What do journalists look for in a story? 

Mistakes happen

It is important to remember that mistakes happen in media interviews. I know I’ve made mistakes when I’ve been interviewed for television and radio and I don’t think anyone at Media First would say they have ever seen a perfect interview.

The key thing to remember is that it is highly unlikely that a mistake in a media interview is going to be career damaging – it would have to be a major foot in the mouth moment.

In fact, people who act as media spokespeople tend to climb the corporate ladder faster than those that don’t because they are perceived as being brave, ambitious and willing to speak out.  

'People who act as media spokespeople tend to climb the corporate ladder faster' http://bit.ly/2CN32Pn via @mediafirstltd

 

Body language

Even if you are still nervous, it is important you appear confident. Maintain good eye contact with the journalist and smile unless you are delivering seriously bad news.

Fidgeting with hair and glasses or shifting from one foot to another when standing also suggest nerves and should be avoided.

 

Media training

The best way to improve the confidence of spokespeople and remove those nerves is through realistic media training which exposes them to current working journalists in a safe environment.

This will give them the skills and opportunity to practice controlling messages and honing messages.

If you have had training before, it is worth remembering the media world and the techniques and methods used by journalists changes quickly and it is important to keep pace with these developments.

Being a media spokesperson is like any other skill – the more you practice the better, less nervous and more successful you will be.

Where is the best location for media training to take place? 

 

Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

Click here to find out more about our journalist-led media training courses.

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