A media interview is a crucial opportunity to get your message across. There are no second takes for a live broadcast, so it's essential that you're prepared for any scenario.

We sat down with our expert Tutors Louise Collins, a qualified vocal coach, and Robert Taylor, a journalist and media training specialist, to get their insights on communication style, the importance of giving an authentic performance, and how these essential skills can be put to work.

Why is it so important to find your communication style?

Louise: Everyone has a preferred way of communicating. Some people are naturally more chatty and relational, whereas other people are more logical and concise. There’s no right or wrong style. However, in a crisis interview a chatty style might not be best choice! Alternatively, if you’re doing a promotional interview you may want to create enthusiasm and interest in your audience, and that will need to be heard in your delivery. In this case, logic and a flat tone would come across as detached and dry. If you can flex your style, you have a better chance of hitting the right tone and being more engaging.

Robert: It’s best when people feel able to behave naturally on camera. Some people find that easier than others, and you’ve got a real advantage if the viewer gets the feeling that the person they see on film is the same person that they could have a coffee with, for example.

Louise: We naturally have different versions of ourselves. We might communicate differently at work to how we communicate with a close friend. So moving from one style to another isn’t as artificial as you might initially think. As Robert said, we need to be natural and within that there can also be variety.

What is the effect of a good or bad performance in front of the media? Why is this skill so valuable?

Robert: With me, it really comes down to this: are you hitting your business objectives? Your body, your voice and your words have to align to give messages that help you achieve your business objective while meeting the journalist’s purpose. What you're looking for in an interview is giving the journalist a piece of news that is helpful, interesting and engaging for the audience, while you as the spokesperson are driving the audience to action and achieving your business objective. It's about changing or reinforcing the way the audience thinks, feels or behaves.

Louise: Being in front of a camera and challenged by a journalist is stressful. It can send people into behaviours that don’t show them at their best and derail their objectives. Some people might freeze and say very little, whereas other might find they’re talking and gesturing far too much. It depends on how this highly pressurised situation affects you. RADA Business’ programme allows you to find out how you react and coaches you through this to establish more resourceful behaviour.

What one piece of advice would you give to someone required to talk to the media?

Louise: Preparation. Preparation of both the content and the way you’re going to deliver those words.

Robert: For me, it's the 80:20 rule. A novice interviewee often spends all their preparation time worrying about what the journalist is going to ask them, which is an unhealthy way to prepare. The best way to prepare is to spend 80% of your time on what you proactively wish to communicate: your two or three headline messages. And then 20% can be spent on thinking about what the journalist might ask, and how you would respond. The answers to the journalist’s questions may not be your key messages, but you’ve still got to give them - you shouldn’t dodge the question. I want people to be able to answer the question, and, if necessary, then bridge on to what you want to say. That’s utterly crucial, in any media interview.

It's about broadening your communication spectrum, so that you're occupying all those communication styles with awareness, and using them in a way that they're expressing more of you in an authentic way.

How can participants apply this skill to other aspects of their professional life?

Louise: Media training requires a huge amount of skill. I could say it’s the most challenging and stressful type of communication you can do! I think the Voice of the Company: A Spokesperson’s Toolkit programme would be good practice for anybody wanting to up their professional game. If you can use the skills we explore and engage in the interviews Robert takes you through, you’ll come out the other end an extremely skilled and confident communicator. You’ll be able to use those skills in so many areas of your professional life. That could be leading a meeting, talking to senior management, creating your own media for websites and doing media interviews.

Robert: I totally agree with you, Louise. If you can face a tough Newsnight interview, for example, then you can communicate effectively in any setting. A lot of people come on this programme, not only because they carry out media interviews, but also because they need to get their message across in all aspects of their working life: anything from a difficult conversation with their boss, to a meeting where there's lots of scepticism or hostility, to an important Zoom call.

If you can get to the point where you can comfortably carry out a tough media interview, then any other type of communication is much more straightforward.

What do participants learn on the Voice of the Company: A Spokesperson's Toolkit programme, and what distinguishes it from other media training programmes?

Robert: The programme gives people the tools, techniques and confidence to an effective spokesperson for their organisation. That could be through a face-to-face live TV, picking up the phone and talking to a local print journalist, or doing a video or audio podcast. It’s about getting your message across to the end audience through an intermediary: the media. That’s what distinguishes it from any other form of communication, and I think there are particular tools and techniques to deal with that in a way that you wouldn't if, for example, you were presenting directly to your audience. You're going through a prism.

Louise: The course takes place over two days. On day one we look at your communication skills. We drill down to the underlying elements that are required to give a successful media interview: the voice, gesture and body language that supports your words. On day two, we look at how to apply these skills to a variety of media interviews. Participants become aware of the physical nature of communication and how that translates in front of the camera. By developing vocal and communicative expertise you have more choices when it comes to responding to a journalist and, of course, your wider audience.

Become a trusted and confident spokesperson for your company, whether giving media interviews or tacking important conversations at work. Our intensive two-day Voice of the Company: A Spokesperson’s Toolkit programme will enable you to confidently handle any type of live or recorded media interview or presentation.

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