Skillset New Zealand Blog

Ideas to help your team develop personally and professionally.

That's not a contradiction. Yes, talk to reporters, but don't make the mistake of thinking that the media are your audience.

How treating the media as your audience can make you less credible

I once spoke to a detective sergeant at a crime scene, just before my TV news camera was ready. In a warm relaxed fashion he told me, "We got him. He came out the door, across the lawn, nipped over the fence and off through the trees. Picked him up in Carlyle Street." Fine. Very clear.

I suggested that when the camera was ready, he might like to repeat that for the news. He agreed. And in front of the camera, here's how he put the same story.

"The alleged offender proceeded east, in an easterly direction, across the lawn. Then he attempted to escape from custody by elevating himself over the obstacle in his path, namely the fence. He then executed a left turn, proceeding..."

And so on... all with his face devoid of human warmth. He shifted from speaking to a person, to speaking to the news media and lost his credibility.

Your real audience

When you speak to the media, your audience is one or two ordinary people sitting in their living rooms, reading, listening or viewing the news. I call them the sofa people. You're in their living room. You're a first time visitor to their house, keen to have your say, but also respectful of their feelings.

So here's the most practical advice I can offer for when you speak to a reporter... talk to the reporter as if he or she is one of the sofa people. That advice becomes even more important when your topic is contentious.

And here's a terrific bonus if you follow that advice: your colleagues and bosses - when asked to choose between you talking to real people, and you sounding important or official for the media - will almost always choose the first.

Michael

About Michael Brown

michael semiformal 460x300

Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

Interested in training in presentation skills?

We can help your presenters engage their audiences – whether they are speaking at major conferences, presenting to the community or colleagues, or speaking up at a meeting.

Learn more

Interested in training in media skills?

Our experienced media trainers can show your spokespeople how to work with the media so that everyone benefits.

Learn more