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August 23, 2012 7:06 pm

How Israel’s Spokespeople can get a Handle on Media Interviews

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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There are a number of different pressures facing Israel today that are garnering media attention, naturally for Israeli representatives and government officials who communicate with journalists, the issue of Iran has now moved to the front and center. For those who represent Israel’s positions to the media, it is fundamental that they take media training seriously.

At my PR agency, we often focus on the importance of media-training, and help clients be sure to put their best foot forward. Here are some fundamentals points:

  • Dealing with the media can be stressful and challenging even for seasoned veterans. Preparing in advance and following some simple interview rules can prepare you for stepping in front of the lens. While most of these rules seem intuitive, I witness people falter on a daily basis.
  • Know what you want to say, and how you want to say it beforehand.
  • Ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish? And who your audience is? (Approaching Fox News is different to the BBC.  Also keep in mind that in today’s media world many stories will reach other media outlets besides the venue where the interview is taking place).
  • Practice and prepare. Sounds simple enough, but without practice and preparation, the results usually speak for themselves (and not in a positive way).
  • Be aware of your body language. A roll of the eyes, a harsh look, or an awkward physical stance can speak louder than your words. The tried-and-true advice of practicing in front of a mirror can be beneficial. Be honest and consistent. Hypocrisy is a killer.
  • Don’t keep talking. Many stories have exploded because of interview subjects who continued to talk. Silence is okay, but if you find it awkward (it is) and difficult (ditto), repeat “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, etc.” in your head until the next question comes up. Let the reporter make the next move. When participating in interviews don’t feel the need to fill the “dead air.”
  • When you’re done, you’re done. Don’t make small talk—get out of ‘enemy territory’ once the interview is done. Interviewees lingering needlessly have made many vital mistakes; damage can be done with a 15-second sound bite after 45 minutes of success. And guess what counts? Only the bad. I have one client who was forced to change his professional career because of small talk with a reporter after a 45-minute positive interview. Media editors often only use a few seconds of edited responses and reactions.
  • Appearance matters—dress the part. What do you want to project physically and visually? I normally recommend going for simple and conservative for most people—no distracting jewelry for women. Solid, saturated colors that flatter your skin tone are helpful because television and pictures dilute color. Navy and gray will wash you out; white is too reflective and is generally not flattering. Stripes and busy linear prints aren’t ideal (they “move”).
  • Get help. You don’t learn to drive a car without practice and you don’t master your craft without learning. You will find it very difficult to master media interviews without proper training. Watch your media appearances with a critical eye and ask what you can do to improve your performance the next time.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a top 25 PR firm.

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