Dr. Joe Trahan, APR of Trahan and Associates began his session “Media Training” by outlining the 3 C’s of media relations: control, competence and concern. He also reminded us multiple times to always listen, pause, think and speak when conversing with the media. Dr. Trahan then focused most of his presentation on preparing for interviews, news conferences, stand-ups, etc. He advocates the use of a 5x5x5 model, in which media trainers prepare 5 “good” questions, 5 “bad” questions and 5 “ugly” questions. Good questions are questions a trainer’s organization wants the media to ask. Bad questions are questions a trainer’s organization must prepare to answer from the media about negative issues. Ugly questions are questions about death, destruction, waste, fraud, etc. Media trainers should develop these 15 questions as well as 15 responses. If time allows, Trahan recommended preparing 30 questions and responses.
Media trainers must play the devil’s advocate in preparing organization figureheads for interactions with the press. As Trahan repeatedly emphasized, it is better that the trainer be tougher on the organization’s representative than the press. On this subject, Trahan talked about his experiences working with Colin Powell. He told us that Powell’s philosophy is that for every minute of airtime in front of the press, one should spend one hour preparing.
A key part of the preparation process is developing “command messages,” which are statements or information that one works into responses that explain the organization’s command’s position in a particular situation. For these messages, media trainers should explain: what the organization wants the audience to remember; what the organization is doing about the problem or issue and the organization’s position or angle on the matter. Command messages cannot be generic.
Trahan also spent some time explaining do’s and don’ts of men and women’s appearance when in front of media. In addition, when interviewing, Trahan advocates using the bridging technique. The media trainer or the organizational representative he or she is training should first answer or acknowledge the question. He or she should then use a bridge phrase to transition to the command message, and then stop.