Want to keep your skills up after media training? Watch The Wire

A lot of clients ask me how they can keep their new skills up to speed following our media training sessions.

Obviously, the answer I want to give is that they should buy more training and do so on a regular basis! But I appreciate that budgets and circumstances don’t always allow for this, which is part of the reason we write coaching notes and set up this blog.

But a blog can only go so far in helping to reinforce learning because media training is about providing a practical toolkit, which can go rusty quickly if it isn’t used.

So here are some tips for PRs who want to keep their team’s skills fresh between trainings.

1. Sizzle sessions

Get colleagues together for lunch or coffee and ask them to bring news stories with quotes in. Ask them to analyse the language and explain what works and what doesn’t. Depending on


The Wire has some great speeches

their enthusiasm, these discussions could also be extended to include poetry, group viewings of speeches and Ted Talks or even monologues from TV (The Wire has some of my favourite speeches in it). There is also team-building value to this exercise but I appreciate that all organisations are different and that time is a factor.

2. News judgment clinics

As a PR you could pull together two or three pieces of coverage of the same story  (preferably one which isn’t related to your organisation).  Get colleagues to analyse the differences in tone and angle to help develop judgment. You could also ask them to rank different stories for their news value as a way of understanding how journalists put stories together and what is and isn’t a story. This may also be helpful for training junior communications staff or for getting excited non-comms colleagues to stop turning up at your desk with ‘stories’ which are actually turkeys.

3. Jargon checklists

jargon image

Keep a jargon checklist: or picture your trainer looking angry

During formal sessions, most trainers will get hot under the collar about how much jargon delegates use in their practice interviews. PRs can build on this by pulling together a jargon checklist with the top ten words, which should be banished from all encounters with journalists. This could be done for all delegates as well as the organisation as a whole. Pin these checklists in prominent places so that you drum it into colleagues that jargon is a dirty word with journalists. I often tell spokespeople to picture me looking angry (which isn’t hard) before their interviews as a reminder.

 4. Practise on camera

This is blindingly obvious but make sure you do it.  A lot of PRs have cameras but don’t institute regular practice sessions. The camera won’t get itself out of the box and your team won’t improve on their own. Use it.

Here are some tips for what I think could help between sessions.

I’d love to hear from PRs: what’s worked for you?



0 replies
  1. Robert Matthews
    Robert Matthews says:

    A couple of “performance maintenance” tips I give to delegates is:

    1. Listen to interviews on radio and TV and see what techniques work well and which really don’t. Eg what makes an interviewee sound genuinely concerned about clients, or authoritative, or dogmatic, or dull ? Also, try to imagine yourself being asked the “zinger” opening question, and having the confidence to reboot the interview with a “context setter”.

    2. For delegates likely to face “down the line” TV interviews who’ve struggled to maintain eye contact with the lens: practise looking directly into the videocam whenever you use Skype. After a while you’ll stop being bothered by the lack of visual feedback from whoever is talking to you.

  2. Lindsay Williams
    Lindsay Williams says:

    I find it remarkably difficult to persuade adults to rehearse aloud. Serious people somehow think this is beneath them or inappropriate behaviour and yet it is the single most effective way of improving a media performance. The exception is anyone who has any acting background however amateur or long ago. It seems once you have learnt to learn lines, it’s like riding a bike, you don’t forget.


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