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Media Training for tech companies: five mistakes that spokespeople often make – and how to avoid them
April 15, 2024

Media Training for tech companies: five mistakes that spokespeople often make – and how to avoid them 

As the tech industry continues its rollercoaster ride of financial uncertainty and hair-raisingly rapid innovation, we’re finding that we’re providing more and more media training courses for tech companies.

We work closely with their media relations teams and PR companies to help them to make the most of print, podcast, TV and social media opportunities whenever they arise. Savvy tech comms people know that just because you’ve secured an interview with TechCrunch or BBC Click, the story doesn’t end there. Making sure that a tech company spokesperson says the right thing, engages the audience and avoids getting drawn into difficult issues is essential.

Media interview coaching for tech companies

As the specialist provider of media interview coaching for tech company, we’re always keen to watch performances by tech entrepreneurs and to read their interviews. It’s fascinating to see who gets it right – and who gets it wrong.

So here are five mistakes that tech firm spokespeople often make:

1. They don’t think about the audience

In our Media Training for tech firms we emphasise the fact that journalist are obsessed with our audience. Whether it’s BBC Click, TelcoTitans, Bloomberg or the Manchester Evening News – we will be thinking about what interests are readers viewers and listeners and how we can connect with them.

As media trainers for the tech industry, we often see and read interviews with tech company bosses in which they use the kind of technical language that will mean nothing to a general audience. Or they make an assumption about the knowledge of their audience. They might also assume that the people they’re talking to share their enthusiasm for technology and their fascination with what happens under the bonnet, whereas many audiences will be sceptical, to say the least, and will have no understanding or interest for that matter in the technology – they just want to know about the benefits that it brings.

When we coach senior tech firm executives for media interviews, we stress that the messages they put across, the assumptions they make and the language that they use must all be driven by the audience.

2. They’re not clear on their messages.

There’s so much happening in tech at the moment. We love the fact that when we deliver media training for tech firms, the participants in our workshops are full of ideas, new insights and fascinating and exciting innovations. They’re bright, enthusiastic and forward-looking – that’s why we enjoy working with them!

The only problem is that during a media interview they may well throw in all kinds of thoughts and ideas that might be interesting but are not necessarily relevant to the subject of the interview. Our Media trainers are all working journalists (operating under strict NDA) and so they know from their day-to-day experience how frustrating this can be as a journalist. This is because at the end of the day you don’t know what your interview wants you to take away and use in their report. It doesn’t work for the interviewee either because they lose control – this is when they sometimes shout at their PR because the clip in the report or the article on the screen isn’t saying what they wanted it to say.

One interview, one message, one headline

That’s why in our media coaching for tech we emphasise the importance of focusing on a key message. “One interview, one message, one headline” is our advice. We also provide techniques to allow tech spokespeople to bring the conversation back to their key messages and to avoid getting pushed off course.

3. They forget to use examples and stories.

According to research by the University of Liverpool about two thirds of all human conversations involves storytelling. 

We do it all the time with family, friends and with work colleagues. However, when people do media interviews they’ll neglect this essential building block of communication. Too often tech spokespeople talk in general abstract terms about their technology. Because they’re not anchoring it in reality even a technical audience can’t grasp what it means and the practical benefits that it offers. That’s why in our media training courses for tech companies we work with their PR advisors and media relations teams. We help them to identify and develop case studies, stories and simple anecdotes that their spokespeople can use during interviews.

4. They answer the questions.

This might be slightly perverse but there’s more to a good media interview than simply answering the journalist’s questions. We should be clear right at the start – we don’t advocate avoiding or ignoring these questions. As part of our media training for tech company executives we provide advice on dealing with difficult questions. Avoiding them doesn’t look good. However, there are ways to manage them while regaining control of the interview.

Rather than just answering the journalist’s questions, the interviewee can take the initiative here. Very often tech executives think that it’s safer simply to give a brief answer. However, as we point out in our media coaching for tech, this means that you have missed out on an opportunity to put across the key message. You’re also increasing the chances of being asked a difficult or irrelevant question as a journalist has to think of what else to ask you.

We advise our course participants to regard the journalist’s questions as prompts to say what they want to say. This allows them to put across their key message. Yes, of course, you need to make your answer relevant to the question. However, where you then take that answer and how you use it to put across relevant, useful messages is up to you.

5. They forget to anticipate difficult questions.

One of the things we love about working with tech companies is their enthusiasm and optimism. However, these are two qualities that journalists – even tech journalists – rarely share. It’s not that we’re out to get you. We just want to play devil’s advocate to test your messages and challenge your assumptions. Again, it’s because we’re thinking about what our audiences might be thinking.

Similarly, journalists are often accused of being obsessed with bad news. It’s not us – it’s you the audience. Bad news, scare stories and anything that creates anxiety gets more attention than good news. We don’t want to put any tech company executives off doing media interviews. All we’re saying is that they need to be prepared for difficult questions.

Media training courses for tech leaders

In our media training courses for tech leaders we identify these possible difficult questions. Again, as working journalists, our media trainers know what unhelpful questions might be put to a spokesperson. We have a range of techniques to help spokespeople to move away from difficult questions and get back onto their key messages.

Communicate Media can work with your PR company or media relations people to develop answers to these questions.

We are probably sounding rather negative in pointing up these mistakes and the risks that they imply. However, the good news is that avoiding them is not that difficult. In our media training courses for tech companies we provide techniques for interviewees to deliver great interviews. Our media trainers put our participants through realistic interviews, allow them to put these techniques into practice and then provide advice and recommendations afterwards.

Media Training for tech companies

We’d love to work with you – come and speak to us. You can follow us on LinkedIn here.

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