The “So What“ Test

We are often asked to run media training abroad, even when spokespeople aren’t necessarily targeting UK media. One of the reasons they want a UK media training company is that it’s generally considered that if spokespeople can handle interviews with British journalists and get their messages across well, then they can probably handle journalists from anywhere in the world.

The UK media are sometimes considered to be tough, aggressive, impatient and even difficult but this tends to be by those people who don’t know how British journalists operate. A far more accurate description of your ‘typical’ UK journalist would be; under pressure, under resourced, stressed and short of time. This, combined with a healthy cynicism that’s always asking ‘so what?’ when they hear stories, can make for a clash with spokespeople if journalists don’t get what they want from interviews. What can solve this potential problem? One simple process: preparation…

Going into an interview thinking you can handle whatever is thrown at you is a foolish attitude to take and there are countless examples of where this has gone badly wrong for spokespeople. We advise Bluewood delegates to prepare for every interview by thinking about the:

  • Audience you are ultimately addressing (obviously doing your research on the specific journalist and their organisation as well is highly recommended), then making sure what you are saying will resonate with that group.
  • Message you want to get across – unless you have something of value to say there’s no point doing the interview – what do you want people to remember about you?
  • Examples that will back-up what you are saying. Without stats, facts and figures your messages will just seem like empty statements.
  • Negatives you may get asked. Whether it’s skeletons in the closet or just tricky issues facing your organisation – make sure you can handle them properly if they come up.

The above acronym (AMEN) is the preparation that delegates should do, and this needs to ‘combat’ the agenda (TRUTH) that journalists will have:

  • Topical – is what they are hearing a topical story?
  • Relevant – is this relevant to their readers?
  • Unusual – does this story stand out?
  • Trouble – readers/viewers are interested in conflict (this is obviously an area that spokespeople want to avoid – unless they can provide a solution to the trouble)
  • Human – the best stories have a human element; normally even the driest topics can have a real person interwoven to it.

These are mantras we want our delegates to remember as they will help you to make even the toughest interviews a success for you, and whether UK journalists are tough or not, only those spokespeople who have prepared properly should deal with them.

This preparation is not about being able to avoid answering questions and certainly not a dark art designed to prevent spokespeople from being honest – it’s all about making sure you can have a meaningful exchange with a journalists, that gets across information that you actually want to communicate, and that the journalist thinks will be of interest to their readers. If that takes place it really can be the start of a beautiful relationship!

Will Edwards – – April 2011

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