10 Top Media Training Techniques That Work in a Pinch

SUMMARY: Master media interviews with these 10 top techniques: redirect questions, leverage statistics, and use humor. Craft concise sound bites (key messages) and anticipate challenges to maintain control. Employ strategic responses to sensitive queries, leaving a positive impression. Whether discussing controversy or promoting work, these techniques amplify impact.

Table of contents:

10 Top Media Training Techniques That Work Everytime—and in a Pinch

Tallulah Bankhead described working on television as “like being shot out of a cannon. They cram you all up with rehearsals, then someone lights a fuse and-BANG-there you are in someone’s living room.” To be ready for your time to shoot out of the cannon, take the time to thoroughly prepare your ideas and sound bites. Television, radio, print and podcast interviewers are often focused on presenting a lively, entertaining program—not on promoting you or your products. Honing your conversational skills is essential to your media training practice to include a repertoire of key phrases will keep interest focused on you and the points you want to convey.

Media Training Technique #1. When asked a question that doesn’t pertain to your topic…

Sharing information with the audience you know is fascinating makes the media interview move at a swift pace while making the interviewer appear as if he’s doing an excellent job. For example say, “What most people want to know is….” Or, “What many people ask me about is….” Or, “What people find most surprising/useful/ entertaining is….”

Media Training Technique #2. When asked a question for which you don’t have a clear answer…

Stay within your area of expertise and reinforce the impression that you are knowledgeable in your field. You might say, “I don’t know about that, and what I do know is….which I discuss in…(name of presentation, book, article, brochure, report etc.).”

One participant in my Zen of Fame™ course who was being considered for a large, nationwide government project, told me that this saved her skin. She said, “I was on a Google Hangouts interview and I was nervous and a little choppy at the beginning. One of the questions I didn’t have the answer to, but I remembered to quickly go on to the phrase you taught us during media training, ‘What I can tell you is….’ So there was no break in the flow.”

Media Training Technique #3. When asked a question that is too general…

Ask yourself a specific question and then answer it. You might say, “I sometimes wonder how I could have written/said….” Then launch into a story, anecdote, or epiphany.

Media Training Technique #4. When asked a question that could provoke controversy…

Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Words are loaded pistols.” You can use word’s explosive power in your favor by learning how to soften your introduction before delivering controversial ideas. Former President Clinton used this technique when he was talking about sensitive issues such as abortion during media appearances. It’s a way of acknowledging a difficult issue or position while respecting your critics’ or opponents’ ideas.

Also, by mentioning an opposing view, you automatically diffuse it. Examples, “People who disagree with me might say….” Or, “Other people who have opposing ideas may say…but I believe…for these reasons….” Or, “What I’m about to say may make a number of people angry….” A Gaelic proverb states, “If you want an audience, start a fight.”

Media Training Technique #5. When asked a question you don’t want to delve into deeply…

State facts, statistics or quote an expert or prestigious journal during panels, presentations or media interview, which has information relevant to your point. Surrounding yourself with other experts or organizations whose statistics or studies agree with your perspective or research creates a fortress of facts that support your views.

For my client, Dr. Lionel Bissoon, considered the foremost expert in Mesotherapy in America, this fact proved useful as a sound bite in his media interviews. What made this statistic more powerful is that during our media training sessions we connected it with the solution, Mesotherapy (which Dr. Bissoon is credited for bringing from France to the U.S.): 150 million (90%) U.S. women have cellulite and there is only one known cure: Mesotherapy. Mesotherapy is the only known medical treatment for cellulite that has definitive lasting effects.

Remember, you are in charge of how you are presented to the public. Even when caught off guard, take a deep breath, reflect, and then say something that people will remember.

Media Training Technique #6. When asked an embarrassing or inappropriate question…

Reframe the question by beginning with, “What I felt was….” Then focus attention on a broader social issue or expand it to encompass what many people might feel. One of my clients who had been raped by a prominent sports attorney, and who wanted to bring attention to the fact that many women in business just like her have also been raped in similar circumstances, was asked by an interviewer: “Did you feel dirty, unlovable, ashamed?”

Instead of answering, “Yes,” during media interviews, she responded, “Many women, whether they’ve been raped or not, have been made to feel that way about their bodies or sexuality at some point in their lives. That’s why I’ve chosen to speak out on this sensitive issue now. To give a voice to all of us, even those who have no voice.”

Media Training Technique #7. When asked a question that is too personal…

Use humor to lighten the atmosphere. Change the nature of the question gracefully by saying, “What I’d really like to say is….” Or, “The question I’d really like to answer is….” Or, “In my book (give title) I say….” You can also say, “I’d like to keep that part of my life private, but I would like to share this….” Then offer something else delicious and intimate.

Media Training Technique #8. When an interview is lagging…

Ask to read a passage from your book or describe your service with a tightly condensed and powerful phrase. You will have already chosen in advance a paragraph or two during your media training sessions that is particularly exemplary. Don’t feel shy about offering. Most interviewers are so busy they may not have had a chance to review or even peruse your book or the information you’ve provided. You are the person most familiar with your book, personality or business and the best parts of it!

When she was being interviewed for her book, Some of Me, Isabella Rossellini delighted her audience by picking an imaginative and lively section which she read with feeling.

Media Training Technique #9. When you’re pressed on a sensitive point…

When Terry Gross pressed Chuck D, leader of the rap group Public Enemy, about one of the members of his group making anti-Semitic remarks, he answered vaguely a number of times and then said bluntly, “Let’s move on,” which made him appear rude.

Instead, I would have recommended saying, “I’ve really said all I can say about this. Can we go on to the next question?” Or, “I’ve really answered this to the best of my knowledge at this time with the information I have available.”

Another way to handle persistent questions on a topic you wish to avoid is to give a series of very short responses or answer them with information that is so charming or captivating the interviewer won’t notice you’ve deviated from his/her request. The interviewer will then feel as if his/her questions have been answered satisfactorily without being embarrassed by not being able to elicit a direct response from you.

Media Training Technique #10. When you haven’t been asked something you want to cover…

Offer to share something the interviewer hasn’t thought of. Most often they will greatly appreciate your thoughtfulness. Use a teaser tidbit. “I could tell you about…if you’d like.”

It may surprise you but people rarely remember the questions an interviewer poses. What they remember are your answers. And when they no longer remember your answers they remember the feeling they received when hearing you speak. It’s up to you to leave them with the feeling you want them to have, no matter what the topic, tone or personality of the interviewer or interview.

Oscar Wilde said, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” Let your last words be this small act. You never know who you will reach with your kindness.

Now, about you and your offering…Would you like to give media interviews without selling your soul? I invite you to join our The Zen of Fame: Your Genius Gone Viral™ course that includes media training and creating a content messaging strategy including various proven (natural and organic) sound bite formulas that work every time so you’ll get quoted, featured and profiled while being positioned the way you want. You’ll also get strategies to turn every media appearance into an opportunity to gracefully drive business and sales while being a great guest.

Check out our PR and Media Training Workshop to Jumpstart your Publicity

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Hi, I'm Susan

I’m a media coach, martial artist + marketing strategist who helps you communicate your values, mission + message during media interviews to multiply your revenue while building your brand + business. I believe that you don’t need to brag, beg or whore yourself to get the publicity you want. Nor do you need to be an axe murderer, a shamed sports star, or be involved in a sex scandal. There is another way…

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