Tip Sheet: Media Training Execs for Social Media Coverage

By Andrew Gilman

The rise of social media has opened media training strategies up to many new possibilities. Not since the advent of video news releases (VNRs) has the industry had an opportunity to communicate as deeply and broadly with a variety of stakeholders and audiences. The bottom line for communicators, then, is simple: Social media requires development of a carefully thought-out script, well-crafted sound bites and a variety of proof points. The payoff is that the readers, viewers and listeners will spend more time on specific Web sites and blogs, just as they will set aside more time for watching longer video segments and vlogs.

When we prepare clients for a regular print or broadcast interview, we're often trying to handicap the interview process. We can forecast the results of a typical interview. For starters, the reporter will ask between 10 and 30 questions; depending on the length of the piece, a good outcome is one or two quotes in the resulting article or electronic story. Some of the information in non-quoted paragraphs will be either information you have provided or confirmed.

Usually, less than 10% of the words in the interview--more realistically, less than 5%--reaches the printed page or the airwaves. And, if all else goes according to plan, said words are given within the proper context, thus advancing your cause, issue or product.

Social media platforms have the chance of capturing more of your information. We used to think that cable stations increased the opportunity for more client information to reach an audience. Except for the financial market business TV networks, cable hasn't necessarily added to the outlets for general company, scientific or association news. It hasn't lengthened the number of your quotes that make it on air.

Yet Web sites and other social media platforms, driven less by size and time constraints than on-air or cable media, can absorb more information and tell a fuller story. For example, a reporter covering a poster presentation at a scientific conference may only write one or two sentences about the subject of the poster, and perhaps include one quote from the Q&A or short media interview. The scientific association sponsoring the conference might decide to use its Web site and post full video reports from the conference, or to vlog interviews with the poster presenters. Instead of a 20-40-second sound bite, the scientist might be able to answer five minutes of questions for that vlog.

With that in mind, here are a few rules for preparing spokespersons for interviews with bloggers and other social media users.

*Prepare more sound bites. While you potentially have more time with social media, that doesn't mean the reader or viewer has a longer attention span. In order to keep their attention, you need to develop more than the one killer sound bite that you know will be captured.

*Develop a more logical flow of information. The typical article relies upon the reporter to write the "story." Your answer is placed into the story that the reporter decides to tell.

With a blog or vlog, there will be more of a logical flow to the story that you create.

*Prepare different kinds of sound bites. The most powerful sound bites are those that are visual in nature, including anecdotes and examples. The longer format allows for analogies, third-party testimonials and/or citations from academic journals. Different readers and viewers will react to different types of proofs.

*Use your own visuals. The typical newspaper or TV station is reluctant to take your charts, even if they are used in other contexts or media. In a blog or vlog, there's a greater chance of your charts and visuals making the grade, so make sure you are prepared to provide them.

*Prepare answers to your difficult questions. Whether it's an investigative reporter, blogger or vlogger, credibility means being able to face and respond to objections and criticism. This is an essential element of preparation for any type of media engagement. You might be able to keep readers on your site longer if you know that the challenging questions are being addressed.

The audience for a blog or vlog may not be as large as a network news program, but it may be more targeted and specific to your needs. Adjust your preparation and you'll have more success with these and other social media platforms. PRN


Andrew Gilman is the president and CEO of CommCore Consulting Group. He can be reached at [email protected].