How to Create the Perfect Media Message? [Media Training 101]

Just imagine, BBC lets you run a 30-second public service announcement commercial on anything you want. What would it be?  I’m pretty sure you’ll come up with your top message or what you could say in 30 seconds. 

It means that anytime you’re speaking to the media, you need to be clear about your message. You’re not there to be a reference librarian to just answer questions. People have Google for that. You have to focus on a specific idea.  

And the same is true for creating messages for your own media, such as online video courses or blog articles. For example, in this article, I am just gonna focus on “creating the perfect media message”. I am not talking about ‘how to look good on camera or ‘how to do makeup’. Just massaging. 

So, know what’s the message that you want the readers, listeners, or viewers to get from you. 

Below are a few tips that’ll help you create the perfect media message.  

  1. Anticipate the Reporters Questions 

The report tells you about the topic they want to interview you about. How will you know what to say?

The first step here is to put yourself in the shoes of the reporter and think about what they’re likely to ask you. For instance, if the report is interviewing you about a plane explosion, it’s obvious they’ll be asking questions like what happened, how many people were killed, should there be an investigation, etc. 

It means that a good message answers the most obvious questions

So, spend some time brainstorming questions that your report may ask- given the topic, the media outlet, and the audience of that media outlet. 

Then, start thinking about answers to those questions. Write them down. Remember that you don’t want to focus on every possible question the report may ask. You just want to focus on the MOST OBVIOUS questions. 

  1. Create Irresistible Messages for Reporters 

When coming up with messages, you want to ask yourself one thing, “Do you have messages that’ll be genuinely interesting to the report?” 

Reports pick what they want to go in the final story. And if they find the messages uninteresting, that won’t help. They’re not going to put it in that story for any formal edited interview. 

So, you should actively think about what ideas you have that the reporter will find interesting. Here you need to keep in mind their editorial focus, the audience, and the scope of their coverage. 

  1. Find the Right Message for Your Audience

Next, you need to think about whether you have ideas that your audience will find interesting? That’s because a report may find something interesting that your audience may not.

Let me share a story with you. A few years back, I worked with politicians who claimed that they were not going to take money from the political action communities or organized lobby groups. They thought it was important for democracy. 

It was an important message to political reports, they found it fascinating and wrote column after column on the topic. Sounds like a great message, right? Important to the interviewee, interesting to the media, generated lots of coverage. 

But the readers of those newspapers and consumers of the TV and radio broadcast didn’t know what PAC money was or what political action communities were. They didn’t care about that money. They didn’t vote based on that money and the result was all those candidates lost. 

So, you have to think and ask yourself what is the message that’s genuinely interesting to your target audience. 

  1. Brainstorm Your Three Points 

Brainstorming is easy. You may get hundreds of possible ideas during brainstorming. 

But you need to critically evaluate all your ideas and narrow them down to just three ideas.

Why three? 

That’s because if you have only one message, the content will be repetitive and boring for the audience. 

Likewise, people usually don’t remember more than three messages. So, three is the number that just works. Easy for people to remember, is not boring, and doesn’t overwhelm. 

  1. Avoid Subpoints 

Remember that there are no subpoints in a media interview. 

Why? That’s because a reporter may talk to you for hours but put just one quote of yours in the final story. Was that a subpoint? Was that the main point? Or was that your only point? 

So, if you don’t want to lose control over the context then get rid of the subpoints solution, and be clear about your three main ideas. 

  1. Keep it Less than Ten Words 

If you have a message point and it contains words like ‘and’, ‘however’, ‘therefore’, ‘but’ or a comma, you haven’t truly isolated one message. You’re putting in two or three message points. Makes sense in real life but a horrible thing to do when you are planning a media message. Because reports can isolate just one idea and not use what’s after the ‘but’ or before the ‘however’. 

So, it’s best to say each message in ten words or less; 30 seconds or less. If your message has more than ten words, the chances are you’ve already messed up. You’re putting in multiple ideas together. 

So, isolate one idea at a time without any ands, commas, or connectives. NO subpoints. Just ONE SIMPLE SENTENCE. 

  1. The Venn Diagram for Messaging Success

Venn Diagram is one of the most helpful things for my clients when they are coming up with their messages. 

Here is how to do it:

  • Get a whiteboard or a flip chart. 
  • Draw a big circle for yourself– that’s what you want. All of your messages should go in that circle. 
  • Have another circle for the media– all the messages that will be interesting for them will go in that circle. 
  • Draw a final circle for the audience– containing all the messages your target audience is interested in. 

For instance, the message like “I’m the media reporter; I’ve been working for 10 years now” might be the message for you but reporters are outside of this circle. So, put it in your circle 

Similarly, look at all your messages, and then plot them in the van diagram. 

And here’s the real trick- eliminate everything that isn’t right in the center. That isn’t a part of the circle for you, the media, and the audience. This will help bring great clarity to your message and figure out what is less important and what not to say. 

You need messages that are absolutely important and interesting to YOU, the MEDIA, and the TARGET AUDIENCE.

Now It’s Your Turn to Brainstorm and Test Your Message

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get down to work. I have given you the criteria; you have the picture. Now it’s your turn to brainstorm the ideas and come with three main message points. 

But here is the thing; test your message. Simply put out your cell phone or open your webcam and record your three messages. Then watch it, listen to it, and judge yourself. Are you happy with the messages? If not eliminate the boring messages and record with new ones. Listen to them and repeat until you’re convinced that you have the right message.  

Does this article help you create the perfect message for your next media interview? Do share your experience with us! 

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