Three myths about media briefings
Media briefings are one of the most important ways to get your message out. They provide the forum to go beyond what’s written in a press release, explain your views on bigger industry topics, and demonstrate why you’re a thought leader.
It’s therefore important to maximise your minutes.
How well do you convey your company’s message in an interview? Can you do it without sounding like a used car salesman? Do you have a strong opinion on an industry issue that’s worth listening to?
A lot of spokespeople can find media briefings daunting, and if you’re unsure about the answer to any of those questions, then media training is something worth considering. But are media briefings really that stressful?
We’re fortunate to have a number of ex-journalists on our team alongside many seasoned PR pros, so between us we’ve seen almost every scenario from both sides of the fence. We therefore thought it would be worth addressing some of the biggest worries spokespeople typically have about engaging in media briefings.
So, let’s get to it. Here are the three most maddening myths and misconceptions about media meetings:
Journalists are out to get you.
This is without a doubt the biggest preconceived myth that spokespeople have. Sure, we all enjoy seeing a politician squirm under the pressure of a Paxman-esque reporter from time to time, but when it comes to non-political briefings, journalists aren’t out to make you sweat under the heat of a grilling.
Reporters want to understand the story, so will ask questions about your news and views. Any pressing on a question is because they need to clarify your points – usually a technical understanding – not to trip you up!
Journalists want to forge relationships with trustworthy spokespeople that can become reliable, go-to contacts in future, they don’t want to cause a nervous breakdown.
You need to memorise absolutely every detail about your business.
A lot of spokespeople worry about briefings in case they are asked something they don’t know the answer to, and then are made to look unknowledgeable about the company they work for.
The reality is, there’s a lot going on in a tech company, and more often than not different people are responsible for different strands of the business. Obviously, preparation helps, and having some key stats to hand is always useful, but you don’t need to memorise every number and name in the entire history of your company.
Feeling under pressure to answer questions then and there often leads to saying something that’s incorrect or saying something you shouldn’t (a common one is naming a customer that isn’t public). Journalists ultimately want to report accurately, so if it’s better to quickly check a name or number after the briefing and send it over, that’s far better than trying to seem like the all-knowing exec and end up getting something wrong.
You need to tell them everything about your company.
Media. Briefings. Are. Not. Sales. Meetings.
Even the most experienced spokespeople can slip into the bad habit of thinking a media briefing is a one-and-done opportunity, and they have to get all of their points across in one go or risk never getting them out at all.
Most media briefings are about a trend, an issue, a development in the industry and how your business can add value to the discussion. It’s important to stick to the topic, and not use any excuse to shoe-horn in messaging about something that is – at best – tangentially relevant.
If you give the journalist value on the topic they’re writing about, they’re far more likely to come back to get your thoughts on other topics.
As tempting as it is, shouting about how your business is the best thing to have ever existed rather than how it plays into the bigger picture is an immediate turn-off, and closes the door on most future opportunities.
Those are just three of the most common misconceptions spokespeople have going into media briefings, but there’s much more to it. Managing media briefings is a skill, and like all skills, you get better with practice, training and more practice.
If you’d like know how you can ensure briefing brilliance, drop us a line – we’d love to chat!