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  Home > Events > Past Events > Media Training 101


Media Training 101

December 13, 2006

Maureen Cahill and Teresa McFarland, from McFarland Cahill Communications, a local PR firm, presented to over 50 people in The Whole at Coffman Union. A basic definition of public relations, and the differences between PR and advertising, were discussed. Advantages of PR include providing credibility, incurring less expense, and having the message resonate longer than advertising. Disadvantages include being at the mercy of the news cycle, having no direct control over the outcome, and taking longer.

Effective PR should focus on passing on consistent messages and be delivered to key audiences. The key message must be pertinent and support the mission. Key messages are often overlooked, which can leave a wrong impression–or no impression at all.

Several video clips showed both good and bad examples. Good examples demonstrated sticking to the key message even in the face of adversity. Bad examples included not answering reporters' questions and choosing the wrong spokesperson. The best spokesperson depends on the media type. Radio, television, and print all require different skills.

Hints for Preparing a Spokesperson:

  • Develop an effective statement.
  • Brainstorm all possible questions and answers, positive and negative.
  • Don't use jargon.
  • Provide the reporter with as much background information as possible beforehand.
  • Practice, practice, practice!
  • Videotape the rehearsal, and time it.

Remember that an ill-prepared, bad interview can be very damaging, with little chance of repairing the bad impression.

Tips for a Media Interview:

  • Interview the interviewer beforehand, so you know what to expect.
  • Remember you can only control your response.
  • Keep to the key messages.
  • Play offense, not defense.
  • Remember you have rights as an interviewee; for instance, you can request to start a statement again (provided it is not on live television or radio).
  • The reporter needs a story, but you have the message to get out.
  • Keep in mind that the audience is the viewer, not the reporter.
  • Match your tone to the message.
  • Tell stories and use comparisons.
  • Be quotable.
  • Never say “No comment,” hold your hand up in front of the camera, or walk away from the camera.
  • Ask for clarification on any questions you don’t fully understand.
  • Don’t repeat a negative.
  • Don’t nod when a reporter is stating a negative.

Building positive relationships with the media is the key element. When you offer a prepared spokesperson, you are making the reporter’s job easier, and they will be more likely to use you again. Be proactive in pitching a story to a reporter – if you see something in the news for which you have an expert spokesperson, contact the reporter and tell them you have an angle on the topic.

To request a copy of the slide presentation from this event, please contact Kelly O'Brien at



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