MSNBC correspondent Mike Barnicle asked Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, “What would you do, if elected, about Aleppo?” To which Johnson responded, “What is Aleppo?” Within minutes, the former governor was being mocked on Twitter and covered by scores of online news outlets, many of which posited that the gaffe was an indication of a clueless foreign policy. From a PR perspective, it indicates a lack of media training.
As the pool of full-time journalists continues to wane, today’s PR professional has to spend increasing amounts of time writing pitches that stand out from the masses. And for all of that effort, when a story does get picked up by a major outlet, it’s buried by a constant stream of other stories—often without enough time for it to generate adequate impressions for the resources spent. Which begs the question: Is it still worth it for PR professionals to prioritize earned media, or should they pour all of their resources into newer media channels instead?
After facing intense backlash for the price increase of EpiPens—a life-saving medication for individuals with severe allergies—Mylan CEO Heather Bresch outlined the company’s plan to make the drug more affordable during an Aug. 24 interview on CNBC. By shifting the conversation to the broader—and incredibly divisive—issue of health care in the U.S., Bresch offers her critics something else to direct their ire at. But what she really did in this interview was display a mastery of media training skills.
Ten years ago, Yahoo and AOL were cutthroat competitors for search engine and web portal dominance. Today, however, Yahoo’s unexpected PR savior in the post-sale fallout has been AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong, who, having recently sold his own company to Verizon, has taken the opportunity to spin the Verizon acquisition as a merger of two user bases and an opportunity for digital advertising sales, refuting the media’s portrayal of Verizon’s opportunistic seizing of a sinking ship.
Sometimes pitches can get lost in the daily deluge that is a reporter’s email inbox. And there are plenty of journalists who are simply more engaged on social than other means of communication. One of the great things about social media is that PR pros can cultivate opportunities by being present on the platforms journalists use to identify story angles and sources.
How many times has this happened to you? You’re watching live television or attending an event with family and friends and a CEO or some other public official says something you, as a PR pro, know could spell trouble for the brand that person is representing? Your friends notice you cringing. Should it be your CEO up there, before your friends even notice it, you’re heading to the office or ducking out to make or receive a phone call about what you just heard. It’s part of the job.
In our nervous-twitch environment, PR execs who provide media training often face an executive or a team that has received coaching previously. These executives or team members know—or think they know—the basics and don’t want to waste time on Training 101. They are content- and results-focused and likely lack the PR knowledge about how the 3 P’s (preparation, practice and performance) can be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful interview.
When you have an important message to communicate—especially one that might be controversial or unpopular—you need more than just the message itself. You should equip yourself with a “messaging toolkit” that will help you effectively deliver (and justify) your message in various formats to various media.
This piece is excerpted from Maura Fitzgerald’s article “Making the Most Out of Broadcast: Turning Your Exec Into a Media Star” in the PR News Media Training Guidebook, Volume 6. Dress: ■Dress conservatively. For men, a… Continued