Media Training 101 | Lessons From Elon Musk & TikTok

by | Apr 10, 2024

Welcome to media training 101. Over the years we’ve delivered variations of media training – from high-focused, one-on-one workshops, to presentations delivered to multiple executives. In this blog, you’ll learn the tips and techniques for engaging with different types of media – TV, radio, print and digital – and how to make sure your message is heard, received and acknowledged every time.


What is Taught in Media Training?


Media training is all about helping you hone your messages, so you deliver powerful and logical talking points while appearing confident and comfortable in all types of media interviews. Learning or sharpening your media savvy skills will also enable you to present yourself and your business with conviction while conveying empathy.


What Are Different Types of Media Training?


Media training is not a one size fits all and is tailored to various types of training. From social media, crisis management, TV, radio, and print interview training to reputation management. Each of these different mediums are unique and they come with their own set of guidelines and best practices. Understanding the difference and learning how to maximize confidence and comfort in navigating each of these formats while minimizing surprises is our goal.


Nail Your Key Messaging


This is media training 101. The essence of your communication strategy revolves around developing messages that are compelling, memorable, easy to understand and delivered in concise “sound bites.”


What Are Key Messages in Media Training?


Powerful key messages are the fundamental principle of any media interview. Unless you know what you’re trying to communicate and how you will convey your messages convincingly you are setting yourself up for failure.


Our media training focuses on refining your message. We specialize in helping you take complex situations and distill them down into crisp, clear key points while teaching you how to effectively deliver it in a media interview.


What Are Good Key Messages?


Good key messages are concise, clear, compelling, and most importantly, they connect on a human level with your audience. They address the needs and interests of the audience while underscoring the unique attributes of your brand. When a key message aligns with your audience’s values and your company’s corporate philosophy, it’s not just heard; it’s felt.


How Do You Make Key Messages Interesting?


Everyone knows the media is fuelled by a good story. The same rings true for your audience. Learning the art of storytelling in a media interview helps you connect with your stakeholders in a way that is memorable and impactful. Storytelling also makes your interview more interesting and engaging for both the interviewee and your audience.


Media Training 101


As media training professionals, we’ve seen all the epic media interview fails. From interview meltdowns to errant jokes and even comments taken out of context, the Internet is littered with media interview disasters. Fortunately, we can help you prepare to avoid any interview pitfalls. Here are some media tips to get your started.


Have Prepared Statements for Different Occurrences


When going into a media interview, it helps to have a “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” mentality. Reporters can intentionally or unintentionally try to trip you up in an interview. That’s why preparing for the good, the bad, and the ugly questions will ensure your messaging is consistent, clear, and delivered under your control. A bit of preparation and practice can be the difference between succeeding in a media interview or becoming a social media sensation for all the wrong reasons.


Identify the Right Spokesperson (or People)


Whether it’s a product launch or a workplace crisis, you need to ensure the right message is delivered by the right spokesperson at your company. Choosing a spokesperson can be tricky so here’s some pointers. Select someone knowledgeable about the topic of the interview and who is ready to explain that subject in a clear, concise way that doesn’t stray off topic. If it’s a reputation management issue, your spokesperson should be relatable and able to deliver your company’s perspective with empathy and compassion.



Build a Media Kit to Streamline Communications


Having a media kit shows that you’re thoughtful, experienced, and prepared. Creating a media kit can make you more attractive as a interview guest because you’ve done the work for the reporter. Your media kit should include a brief description of your company, your mission statement, customer or business statistics, bios of your team, case studies, contact information and any other relevant information that will be helpful to the media.


Never Say “No Comment”


Think back to any interview where you heard the interviewee say, “no comment.” Does it make the person sound trustworthy? Or does it suggest perhaps they have something to hide? Most likely, it’s the latter. How to avoid the dreaded “no comment” phrase is to prepare in advance for dreaded questions. Without sounding dodgy, simply acknowledge the reporter’s question briefly and then reframe the conversation with a key message that is relevant to the topic of the interview. It’s important to always remain authentic when responding in this type of situation. This is an opportunity to reinforce your story while controlling the dialogue. So, find ways to “bridge” back to one of the main messages that you want to resonate with your audience.


Pivot To Your Core Message When Asked “Gotcha Questions”


It’s every interviewee’s nightmare. The reporter asks a question that comes from left field and leaves the person staring like a deer in headlights. Called a “gotcha question”, these are poised to test the mettle of the interviewee. It’s important to proactively prepare for these types of questions and develop messages ahead of time to answer these questions if they are asked in an interview. Also, actively listen to each question being asked, then pause before answering. It’s important to not answer the gotcha question but instead bring it back to the facts while avoiding the emotional underpinnings of the question.  Be concise and only answer as much as is necessary and move on to the next question. Another solid technique is to reframe the question by responding with an anecdote or story that supports your key message.


Tik Tok CEO, Shou Zi Chew, mastered this skill during his contentious testimony before the United States congress. His PR team prepared him with multi-hour daily prep sessions designed to sharpen and polish Chew’s presentation during testimony. While national security concerns were expected to be the primary focus of the hearing, multiple lawmakers also highlighted concerns about Tik Tok’s impact on children. His PR team played the roles of lawmakers with various questioning styles, peppering Chew with practice queries and scenarios to ready him for hours of relentless interrogation.


Chew used this testimony to stress Tik Tok’s independence from China and play up the company’s United States ties. On multiple occasions he reminded the listening audience that he was born in Singapore and served in its military. He also shared the story about how he met his wife just miles away from the United States Capital building in Washington, D.C.


Control Emotions During TV Interviews


Controlling your emotions during an interview can be difficult. Recognize your own emotional triggers and find coping mechanisms to manage them. Get to know your emotions and your emotional patterns. If you can develop skills and self-discipline in managing emotions, you can become a more effective communicator.


People who fail at this skill almost always make the headlines for the wrong reasons. Take for instance, Elon Musk during his interview with former CNN anchor Don Lemon. Musk demonstrated a lack of self-discipline by being visibly upset throughout the entire interview and even explicitly admitting that he was upset by Lemon’s line of questions.


In the heat of a challenging interview, it’s crucial to master the art of emotional maturity by turning potential flare ups of frustration into displays of control. A good tip is to frame the interview as an objective conversation rather than a personal attack on your character or company. Maintaining composure under the studio lights is essential for an unshakeable leader, who must remain poised and focused even when the questions are designed to probe and provoke.


Who Should Get Media Training?


While its tempting to focus your media training only on your company’s CEO and other C-suite executives, it’s also useful to include other employees in media training. For instance, you may not always want your CEO to act as spokesperson. During an evolving issue, for instance, sending out the CEO could signal that a situation is worse than it really is.


This is why it’s essential to train a backup spokesperson as well as marketing and communication employees who are crucial to preparing key messages that a spokesperson will deliver in a media interview.


Media training is invaluable for anyone who may interact with the media. This includes:


  1. Executives and spokespersons who are the face of their brand.
  2. Experts and thought leaders looking to share their insights.
  3. Entrepreneurs pitching ideas to investors through various media channels.
  4. Employees who represent their company at events or on social media.


If your voice represents a brand or a cause, media training is your indispensable ally.


Nicole Harris

Nicole Harris is the Founder and CEO of Solv Communications, a leading Reputation Management and PR agency in the Prairies. As a former network television news anchor and reporter, Nicole has gained deep insight into the power of earning trust through strategic communication. Over her 15-year career in the media she has covered some of the most high- profile risk management stories including cyber breaches at Fortune 500 companies, product recalls, workplace violence and everything in between. Nicole and her team’s extensive industry knowledge and strategic guidance will help you focus on what is in your control to mitigate risk and minimize damage to your reputation. It’s all about prioritizing strategic planning to spot an issue, effectively manage it, and develop action plans to safely steer you through any situation before it damages your reputation. Nicole has developed and delivered bespoke reputation management, strategic, and media training for senior executives, board members, politicians, and celebrities.