As specialists in media training for tech firms, we’ve been following closely events at the AI Safety Summit hosted by the British government. The so-called Bletchley declaration on the first day of the summit has prompted major media coverage.
At Communicate Media, we provide media training courses for tech company executives, working closely with their media relations teams and PR companies to help them make the most of press, radio, podcast, social media and TV interviews when the opportunities arise. We offer advice and practical experience in the form of role-play interviews to help them get across their messages in a way that resonates with their audiences while avoiding the traps and pitfalls of a media interview.
Here are five things that any tech firm spokespeople should bear in mind when doing a media interview.
1. Think about the audience.
You might be speaking to TechCrunch, BBC Breakfast, the Daily Mail, or the Manchester Evening News. Focusing on your audience is essential when doing any media interview. Who are they? What do they want to hear from you? How do they view technology – as an opportunity or a threat? Do they use it regularly for business or just occasionally at home? The messages you put across and the language that you use to express them will all be dictated by the people that you are talking to. In our Media Training courses for tech firms, we sometimes find that at the start of the day, course participants are using technical language and assuming that our general audience understands aspects of technology that they simply don’t. We challenge people in our Media Training courses. With tech firms, one of the ways we do this is to ask what practical benefits the technology they are developing and promoting delivers to ordinary people.
We do role-play interviews where the audience might be businesspeople who don’t really care about the technology but just want to know how it will make their companies more efficient, more customer-focused and better able to get ahead of the competition.
A general audience might simply be focused on how it can help them to book a holiday, get a better price for their insurance or watch their favourite film and TV programmes, as well as identifying messages that will resonate with your audience. It’s also essential to think about using the kind of language that they will understand and even use themselves.
2. Make sure that you’re clear in your messages.
We mentioned messages above, and as we stress in our Media interview coaching for tech companies, it’s essential to think about what you want to get across during the interview. The challenge here for tech people is that they are often full of ideas, comments, thoughts and fascinating facts. This is one reason why we love to provide media consultancy for tech firms, but, on the other hand, we know that audiences can only take away one and perhaps two messages at the most from a media interview. The danger for a tech firm spokesperson, deluging a journalist with facts, figures, insights, stories, thoughts, and statistics is that they don’t know which of these the journalist will take away and use in their report. The interviewee, therefore, loses control of the conversation, and this is where they are disappointed when they see the final coverage.
We recommend that spokespeople for tech firms focus on one or two key points – think about the headline and the first paragraph of a print interview or the two or three sentences that you might hear on a brief radio or TV news bulletin.
3. Think of some stories.
In our Media Training for tech companies, we recommend that spokespeople think about examples, stories, case studies, and even simple anecdotes they can use in their interviews.
The great thing about examples and case studies is that they both illustrate what you’re talking about and prove your points. How often in your everyday conversations with family, friends and colleagues will you use the phrase “For instance…” or “Just imagine…”? This is an excellent way of explaining a concept, and we work with the participants in our media training programs for tech companies to help them identify and develop analogies and comparisons with everyday life that will enable them to explain technical concepts to a non-technical audience.
The other great advantage of using examples is that they prove a point. If you’re trying to convince your audience that AI, for instance, can offer real benefits in our everyday lives, then paint a picture. Show us, in simple, practical terms, how somebody could book a holiday, get a better deal on their insurance or find out which movies are available that they would like to watch. Journalists love stories, and when you’re giving us one, we’ll shut up and let you tell it – giving you more control over the interview.
4. Take the initiative during media interviews.
When we start with our Media Training for tech company executives, they can initially – and very understandably – be wary of speaking to journalists. This means that sometimes their answers are short and only address the exact point they have been asked about. Keeping your answer brief might seem to be a good way of avoiding saying too much or putting your foot in it. However, the danger here is that not only do you miss the opportunity to really get your messages across and make the most of the opportunity of talking to a journalist, but with little to go on from the interviewee, the journalist will ask more questions. Many of these might be unhelpful or irrelevant, and suddenly, you find the interview is taking an unwelcome term.
So, part of our advice for tech firm executives doing media interviews is to take the initiative and get on the front foot. In particular, use the journalist’s opening question to set out your stall and tell them what you believe is the story here and what are the most interesting developments in this area. Very often, you, as the tech firm executive, will be the expert, and you will know far more about the issue in question than the journalist. So, have confidence and take the lead during media interviews.
5. Think about negative or difficult questions.
Okay, so you know the positive points that you want to get across, but what if the journalist asks you something difficult or irrelevant? In our Media Training workshops for tech, we teach our course participants a number of techniques for managing difficult questions and getting back onto the front foot. We stress that this needn’t make you sound like a slippery politician. Instead, it can still enable you to sound reasonable, sympathetic and authentic while maintaining control of the interview and ultimately producing the best outcome for you at the end.
Media Training Courses for Tech Firms
Following these recommendations will significantly increase the chances of you delivering a great interview that promotes your business and positions you as a thought leader. However, practice makes perfect, and so we would be delighted to help you put these techniques into effect in a safe space and receive some helpful, constructive feedback with one of our specialist Media Training courses for tech firms.