How long will media training take?

We normally recommend setting aside one full day for a media training session. This allows enough time for several cycles of simulated interviews and feedback coaching. It’s all about “learning by doing”. The more opportunities you get to practice in different situations, see yourself in replay, get expert feedback coaching, and try it again – the more you will see your performance improve. One day is just enough to embed some serious learning and start to see some serious benefits.

We also run an extended two-day format incorporating an extended rolling crisis scenario and a broader range of learning goals around handling the media in a crisis, developing crisis positioning, responding rapidly to developing events, and crisis interview formats including news conferences and ambush doorstep interviews.

It is possible to run a half-day media session. This is suitable only for one-on-ones with VIPs whose time is very limited, urgent coaching for an upcoming interview at short notice, and “refresher” sessions for spokespeople who were already media trained some time ago and need to brush up their skills.

What is the ideal group size for media training?

Typically we train in groups of between three and six people. Smaller groups allow for more practice interviews and more individual coaching time for each person, which is important for learning outcomes. For VIPs (Prime Ministers, CEOs, Royalty) we often train one-on-one to maximise the value of their time. However, group learning is often advisable even for very senior people, when they work as part of a team. For instance, when we media train a company’s senior executive team together, they often benefit more from group learning and team discussions than they would from training one-on-one.

How can we organise media training for a large group?

If you need to train more than six people at the same time, we will normally recommend that you book a series of separate sessions. These can run on consecutive days, or whenever is convenient. This allows us to dedicate a consistent training team to your account, so between sessions they can build up an understanding of your organisation, its business, strategy, values, people and issues.

Another solution is to train everyone together on the same day using multiple training teams. We begin with everyone together for briefings on best practice, and then break out into smaller groups for interview simulations and feedback. We will set up multiple training rooms each with its own training journalist and camera crew. We have used this approach to train up to 80 people simultaneously. It’s a big logistical operation and it needs a suitable venue, but it works well when everyone has to be trained on the same day. We work this way most often when clients are bringing together an international team for a meeting or conference, and want to add on a media training session while everyone is in the same place.

What languages do you work in?

ISOC conducts media training globally and in most major world languages using native-standard communication coaches and training journalists. We will recommend a training team whose skills and experience most closely match your needs. Our most senior trainers are generally English speakers. We train most regularly in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. We also have trainers fluent in German, Dutch, Swedish, Czech, Serbo-Croat and Hungarian. For other languages, we conduct media training using simultaneous translation, for instance for officials from the Government of Afghanistan speaking Pahsto. Training materials can be translated into any language.

Where will media training happen?

Media training can be conducted at an ISOC training centre, in hotel conference facilities, at your own offices, or in a TV studio. Based on your needs, we will advise which is most suitable and convenient. Generally, it helps to get away from the distractions of your own office. Training in a real TV studio is a “wow” experience, but often not worth the additional cost in terms of learning outcomes, which depend more on the quality of coaching.

I’m nervous about going on TV. Will it be traumatic?

Many people are nervous about going in front of the camera. We’re on your side, and we will help you to look and sound great. If you’re feeling nervous, our first learning objective will be to familiarise and normalise the interview situation for you, so that you can relax and perform to your full potential. Your first interviews will be friendly and straightforward. As the session goes on we’ll keep raising the bar so that you keep learning, but we won’t put you up against hard topics or aggressive questions until you’re confident and ready.

Bottom line: “I really enjoyed it” is the most frequent comment on ISOC feedback forms.

What media training equipment do you use?

The technical set-up looks impressive, and feels just like the real deal. We use the same high-definition broadcast-standard camera, sound and lighting kit that global media like CNN, BBC or CNBC would use for an interview shoot.

We use broadcast-standard Sony cameras to record widescreen Full HD footage direct to solid state memory, which can be transferred immediately to laptops linked to big screens for replay.

Lighting is normally a three-piece set-up including a large soft-box and two keylights to add depth, texture and sometimes a splash of colour for the backdrop.

For microphones we have many options for different scenarios including wireless clip mics, handheld and boom-mounted shotgun mics.

Specialist gear like autocue/teleprompter units and earpiece receivers for down-the-line is also provided.

Will I get a media training certificate?

Provided that you complete the session, you will receive a certificate of attendance issued by the International School of Communication and bearing the logos of our accrediting bodies, Edexcel and the British Accreditation Council. You won’t be formally assessed, so this isn’t a qualification or “spokesperson licence”.

What materials will be provided?

You’ll get a comprehensive training pack including a 38-page media training manual, desktop-sized and wallet-sized reminder cards, printouts of all best practice presentations, scenarios, preparation worksheets and booklets.

What will my interviews be about?

Before the training, we will take a brief from your company or organisation about what topics and media are likely to come up. We will research what’s been in the news recently, and we will ask you to fill in a pre-training questionnaire identifying any subjects and situations where you are likely to give interviews.

For instance, if you would find it useful to prepare for a big announcement coming up or an issue that regularly comes up in the media, that is what we will use to create your interview scenarios.

Each scenario will deal with a new topic, journalist, media and interview situation. Interviews can simulate a wide variety of encounters, to match participants’ needs as identified in the preparation phase. There are hundreds of possibilities. Here are a few examples that we regularly simulate:

  • A pre-recorded on-location interview for a local news feature package
  • An “expert commentator” interview on a live rolling news show
  • A studio interview for a major news announcement or launch
  • An informal stand-up interview with a reporter covering a conference
  • A live evening TV panel discussion on a “thought leadership” topic
  • A “down-the-line” interview speaking direct to camera with an earpiece
  • A crisis statement and Q&A session or news conference

You don’t need to do any special preparation beforehand. You also won’t be expected to speak about anything outside your expertise or remit.

Evaluation and reporting

Trainers complete a structured debrief document including individual notes and recommendations for each participant. This includes a standard rubric to assess and record various performance measures such as staying on message, producing strong quotes and soundbites, and effective body language.

This is used to produce an evaluation report for each person summarising each person’s skills, potential, strengths and weaknesses, and recommendations for improvement. We will also recommend what kinds of interviews and situations each person is ready to take on, using a traffic light system. For instance, we may judge that a particular person is not yet ready to give media interviews; is ready to give interviews on certain topics with certain media; or is a “safe pair of hands” for all media.

Will I learn about all kinds of media, or just TV?

In the real world, spokespeople interact with journalists from all kinds of media – newspapers, radio, TV, newswires, magazines and online. ISOC sessions prepare you for all of these.

Even if you won’t often be on TV, we will often use video as the medium for simulations because it makes such a good feedback mechanism. It lets us zoom in on very clear and specific learning points, and you will learn fastest from seeing and hearing yourself. TV interview skills also transfer very well to other media: when you’ve mastered TV, you’re ready for anything. But we’re also flexible. If all you want to do is prepare for an upcoming radio interview, then we can do just radio all day. We’ll also normally do some newspaper/magazine interviews as a warm-up for your TV training sessions.

Will you give me a copy of my interviews?

Yes – after the training we will edit together your interviews and save them as digital files that you can play on your computer. You will get them on a USB memory stick.

Can we share confidential information in training?

Yes, and often it is very important to do so. Clients often come to ISOC for media training in preparation for media work around a major announcement, which meanwhile remains top secret. Clients also brief us about topics that spokespeople should avoid in interviews, including confidential information like business strategies and financial data, so that we can help them to rehearse answers to questions about information that is legitimately private. Training can provide an opportunity to take not of what is and isn’t in the public domain.

Clients are able to do this because ISOC takes confidentiality very seriously and maintains strict policies and procedures to safeguard information. What happens in the training room stays in the training room. All contracts for media training contain legally binding non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), and all ISOC personnel are subject to similar binding terms. Information assurance procedures ensure paper and electronic files are stored, transferred and deleted securely. We keep no confidential paper records; data files are encrypted; interview recordings are securely deleted after training.