How to media train your executives like a reporter

A journalist and communications strategist explains three secrets to interview preparation.

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In a recent media training session with four senior executives, I came away with a few nuggets of knowledge that might be helpful to those who need to help corporate leaders be more effective in front of the press.

Drill down

Of course, you’ll come prepared to the training session with a series of questions that reflect the type that reports will ask.

But here’s a secret: Rarely does a reporter follow a set list of questions during an interview. Sure, we send a smattering of questions to the vice president of communications, so he or she can prep the executive for the interview. But the truth is, we conduct interviews by the seat of our pants.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re prepared, and we will use the questions as a guideline for the interview. But, more often or not, we stray. Something the interviewee says will pique our interest and we’re often off and running in another direction.

That is what happened when I media trained these executives a few weeks ago. I had my set list of questions and asked exactly one—the rest of my training had me drilling down into the answer from the first question. It was there that I found a couple of story ideas. None came from my list of questions.

Lead with the positive

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