Our media training courses for architects look at the challenges they have to overcome when communicating effectively with the media. Many of the people on our courses have already had some media experience. Sometimes it’s been okay and sometimes.
it hasn’t gone well.
As we set the aims and objectives for the course to ensure that we meet all the participants’ needs, we ask about the problems and challenges that the participants have had as architects when talking to journalists.
We unpack the issues that Journalists and Architects run into during media interviews and discuss how to avoid them.
1. Architects don’t use enough examples or tell enough stories.
Journalists love examples, case studies and anecdotes. When we’re media training them, we find that architects might well tell these stories among themselves and relate anecdotes to their family and friends, But for some reason, when they’re talking to the media, they forget to use them.
We always recommend that when architects talk to journalists, they include examples and case studies. If they’re anxious about compromising client confidentiality, then they can always change some of the details to make them unrecognisable.
2. Architects assume that journalists are as knowledgeable as they are.
During our media coaching courses, we look at what we call “the Curse of knowledge.” In an experiment in 1990 run by a researcher at Stanford University called Elizabeth Newton.
Participants were asked to tap out a well-known tune that other people were asked to guess. The people doing the tapping were asked to estimate how often the listeners would guess the tune right. They estimated that people listening would do so correctly, based purely on their tapping, around 50 per cent of the time. In reality, the listeners were able to guess right just 2.5 per cent of the time.
What does this tell us? The tune playing in our own mind is obvious to us, so we assume that others are hearing it in the same way. But they are not. We assume others will know what we know. The “curse of knowledge” is a cognitive bias that means that we often assume that the people we’re communicating with have the same background knowledge and information about the subject of the communication that we do.
The fact is that even journalists writing for specialist publications or producing architecture podcasts will not have the level of knowledge and the depth of experience that architects do. It’s therefore important, first of all, just to check how much your audience knows and then to ensure that everything you say is understandable to them. That means checking your use of jargon and acronyms and ensuring that you break things down to a practical granular level. In other words, we are focusing on the effect on the audience. This is even more important if you’re interviewing for a general article, such as a home’s or property piece, in The Times, Financial Times, or Daily Mail.
3. Architects get pushed off course by the journalist.
We love people who are enthusiasts. But sometimes, this means that they end up saying too much and losing focus during the interview. In our media roleplay sessions, we gently push them off course and sometimes get them to talk about controversial or unhelpful things. We’re not doing this to be mean, we promise, and we don’t want to make anyone look stupid. In fact, our courses are all about building confidence. We do it to show how easy it is to get pushed off course and lose control of an interview. Having demonstrated this, we then help our course participants focus on their message and maintain control of the interview. When they see the final report, it’s more likely that it covered what they wanted it to cover.
4. They don’t come back to the journalist within the deadline.
Deadlines are often variable these days, given that so much of journalism is “digital first” and therefore appears on a website before it’s published in print – if at all. We work closely with in house comms teams and PR companies for architecture practices. On their behalf, we stress to architects the importance of returning a journalist’s call or coming back to the press office as soon as possible. This not only increases the chances of you being quoted in a print article or having a soundbite or interview featured in a broadcast piece, but it also means that you’re more likely to be able to shape the report or the article in a way that suits you and helps with your corporate communications.
5. They don’t know what journalists are looking for in an interview.
This probably covers all of the above and a lot more. But very often, our media trainers who are working journalists themselves (they’re under strict NDA when they work for us) tell us that they interview architects and many others working in building and design who don’t seem to connect with the journalist’s agenda. The simple fact is that if you have a good idea of what journalists are looking for, you can tick the newsworthiness boxes, which are actually pretty simple and obvious once you know about them. It gives you a much better opportunity of making a better investment in your time spent talking to a journalist. The result is more positive and more extensive media coverage and the chance for new business and opportunities.
Our media training courses cover all of these things and help journalists to communicate more effectively with the media.
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