If you’ve participated in interviews with local or national media, you know the experience can be harrowing. Maybe the reporter asked questions you didn’t anticipate, or maybe you simply felt extremely anxious.
Interviews are a fact of life for organizational leaders. As a CEO or executive in a senior living community, you’re likely to be asked for an interview at some point in your career.
When you’re facing the nerve-wracking prospect of an upcoming interview, don’t panic. Instead, consider taking proactive steps that will help: media training and talking points development.
Why Do You Need Media Prep?
Some people are naturals in front of a camera. They answer questions effortlessly, maintain a conversational tone and never lose their cool. Other people, however, are not so fortunate. They sweat, stammer and may even go into full-on meltdown mode when the red light goes on and the interview begins.
Even if you’re a natural in interviews, preparation doesn’t hurt. For the bulk of people who are nervous when faced with an interview, preparation is a must. If you have an upcoming interview, enlist someone, like a marketing agency, who can assist you with preparation with talking points and media training. What is involved in each of these tactics?
Media Training: Polishing Your Communications Skills
Many organizations choose to provide media training for team members who will likely need to speak with the press at some point. In a senior living community, individuals who may need media training include the chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, vice president of marketing, health care administrator, medical director and others.
You can seek training that’s geared to certain types of interviews, such as print or television. You’ll discuss appropriate attire for different settings as well as how to sit when cameras are turned on. As you and your staff members undergo media training, you’ll begin to feel more confident and less anxious about speaking to members of the press.
Training focuses on responding to uncomfortable questions, formulating answers of the correct length and including correct content on the fly, supporting key messages, and responding when you don’t have a good answer.
The best time to engage in media training is before a crisis strikes and you’re forced to speak with reporters, often in non-optimal circumstances. You also may choose to begin media training to prepare for a scheduled interview.
If you involve several individuals from your organization in media training, it’s a good idea to have everyone participate together to ensure consistent messaging and communications tactics.
Talking Points: Getting the Right Message Across
Talking points are lists of ideas meant to keep a speaker or interview subject on message. Armed with your talking points, you can feel confident that you or your team members won’t go off on a tangent during an interview, potentially providing information you didn’t wish to disclose.
You’ll use talking points simply as support for what you’re saying rather than reading them word-for-word. The language of your written talking points is internal, meant only for consumption by your team members and not by the public or the media.
What goes into effective talking points? First and foremost is clarity. You don’t want to leave the interviewer or audience confused or misinterpreting what you said.
Brevity is also key since your message can get lost in a long and rambling monologue. The most important point you want to make should be your first talking point, and the document overall should be organized with easy-to-read bullet points. You may wish to include some brief supporting information for each primary bullet point, or the main messaging may be enough to trigger your memory in an interview.
In addition, you may want to prepare an informational sheet to accompany your talking points. You can hand a copy of this sheet to a reporter following an interview, and you can use it as a handout when you give presentations to groups.
Be Ready When Speaking to the Media
Giving an interview can be stressful, but it also can provide many benefits for your senior living community. A scheduled interview can bring you tremendous publicity from a respected media outlet. Handled correctly, even interviews given as part of crisis communications can cast your community in a positive and beneficial light.
To ensure that you and your staff members handle interviews with as much polish and professionalism as possible, consider working with an experienced marketing agency for media training and development of effective talking points.