Our Media Training courses for think tanks are becoming increasingly popular. We work with various think tanks, policy advisors and research organisations to help them define and refine their messages and engage more effectively with the media. Working closely with their press offices or in-house Comms teams, if they have them, we help think tank researchers and experts to do media interviews more effectively. This means that they get their messages across, back them up with the kind of examples and striking statistics journalists are always looking for and then avoid getting drawn into irrelevant, unhelpful or controversial subject areas.
How Communicate Media Helps Think Tanks
Our Media trainers are working journalists operating under strict nondisclosure agreements, so they bring practical, relevant and timely experience to bear on our Media coaching workshops. We’re very much aware that although journalists are usually interested in what think tanks, researchers and policy experts have to say, they take a very different approach to communications. To give one simple example – researchers and think tank policy people are used to gathering huge amounts of evidence and information in their reports and finally reaching a conclusion. When talking to the media, you need to flip this around – give us the conclusion at the start of your comments and then explain how you’ve reached it.
Another difference between researchers, policy experts and think tank personnel on the one hand and journalists on the other is that they are very detail-oriented–which is a good thing for them. However, as any journalist will tell you, the media take a high-level, broad-brush approach. We’re interested in a specific type of detail, but a comment or an answer to a question that goes into the weeds will leave a journalist cold. They won’t quote your think tank. Instead, they may well go to someone else who can give them some information more concisely, succinctly, and accessibly.
Frequently, at the start of our Media interview training for think tank experts, even before we’ve begun to do role-play interviews with them, we look at how to define their messages – what exactly are they saying as a result of a particular report or some research that they have carried out? We then examine the media agenda, what journalists are looking for, and what makes a good story for news organisations and specialist media. We can then begin to map the policymakers’ research findings onto a simple newsworthiness acronym to identify how interviewees from think tanks can tick the newsworthiness boxes for a journalist.
Connected to this, we also work with the press offices and in-house think tank communications teams to help them identify media opportunities and good stories they can pitch to journalists. Our PR training for think tanks is also becoming increasingly popular.
Think Tank Media Interviews
One of the little hacks or Media interview techniques that we teach in our media interview training for think thanks is to think:
- Call to action
In other words, what are the top level findings of your latest report? What problem, risk or danger do they highlight? This might sound very negative, but as our journalists/Media Trainers will tell you, bad news is more likely to grab the media’s attention because we know that our audiences will respond to it more quickly. However, you can turn this into a positive by advocating a solution. We know this might be easier said than done in some cases, or it might risk pulling you into party politics or controversial issues within the sector. In this case, perhaps you can even talk about what other countries do or offer a range of options.
Finally, during a media interview, you can offer a call to action – what, ideally, would you like to see politicians, policymakers, practitioners in the field or others do as a result of your research findings? We should add that in each of these four sections, it would be great if you could provide an example, a story, a case study or even a simple anecdote to illustrate and prove your point. This is meat and drink to journalists, the kind of detail they want to hear, and in our Media Training workshops for think tanks, we help researchers and their Comms teams identify the kind of examples that will resonate well with their target media.
Some of the think tanks we have provided Media Training for have told us that their spokespeople have had bad experiences with the media. This is sometimes because they have failed to get their message across, but in other situations, it is where a journalist has taken them in a direction that they don’t want to go into, and the interview has ended up focusing on an issue that is irrelevant, controversial and unhelpful. It’s therefore essential that when they come to do interviews, the spokespeople for think tanks not only know what they do want to say but also what they don’t want to say.
It’s also important that they are ready to move away from irrelevant or unhelpful issues and back onto their key messages. During our authentic role-play, Media Training practice interviews for think tank experts, we gently push them off course – but then provide a range of techniques to help them get back onto the subject area and maintain control of the interview.
Why Communicate Media?
Finally, we know nobody ever went to work for a think tank because they wanted to make loads of money and that budgets are tighter than ever these days. This is why so many think tanks come to us for Media Training because our lean, flat structure means we can offer more affordable pricing. Unlike some of the big agencies, we don’t have sales teams to support or costly in-house TV studios to run. With Communicate Media, you only pay for the training you receive – and the person who creates the course to meet your exact needs is also the person who delivers it and provides all support and management for you. This means that you get the course that you commissioned.
As I mentioned, we love doing Media Training for think tanks and would love to talk to you about what we can offer you.