Media mishaps: When OPR’s media training could have come in handy

At Obsidian, one of the services we offer our clients is media training. We work with clients on all aspects of communicating with the media, from tips for being on camera – such as avoiding fidgeting or fixing your hair – to ensuring they hit all of the major points they need to make and phrases to avoid. 

You might not notice great media training when you see it, but you’ll certainly notice its absence. Nothing goes viral more quickly than a brand’s tone-deaf tweet or a CEO putting their foot in their mouth. To illustrate our point, we’ve gathered a few moments in which OPR went, “Wow, they really could’ve used our media training.”

But it’s not my fault!

During arguably one of the worst environmental disasters in history, British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward made a slip of the tongue that most likely cost him his job. When discussing the oil spill and his company’s response, Hayward flippantly remarked “I want my life back,” when referring to the disaster’s toll on the company. Our tip here? First of all, always apologize – no one likes a sore loser. Remember that you’re a spokesperson for your company. It’s not an interview about your feelings or opinions but about the company’s response to a crisis or its statement regarding a sticky situation. So, especially when your company is in the hot seat like this, it’s best to stick to the script, apologize and leave any personal feelings for your standing Wednesday at 2 p.m. therapy appointment.

Pay no attention to the distraction behind the curtain

Who could forget one of the most adorable videos of 2017? During a BBC segment, newscasters cut to a correspondent weighing in via video call from home. Halfway through, his adorable toddler came barreling in the room and capturing the world’s attention for weeks. While this is a pretty adorable mistake to make, a huge part of our media training is limiting distractions. Whether it’s a potential distraction in your surroundings (like an unlocked door and a curious kiddo) or a distraction you cause yourself like biting your lip or messing with your hair or outfit, we train our clients to plan for all of them!  It’s easy for focus to shift when there is something going on in the background – our attention spans are getting shorter, after all. 

Patience is key

Sometimes media members ask things we wish they wouldn’t, but they’re just doing their job. They may even ask the same questions over and over again to get a more in-depth answer, check on the status of an issue or get clarification for viewers/listeners/readers who missed it the first time. While this could make us slightly uneasy, there is never an excuse for expressing frustration with your interviewer – especially live on camera! The University of Alabama’s football coach came under fire a few years ago over his rude and flippant response, “I’m not going to (say it), so quit asking,” to a reporter’s question regarding his quarterback’s performance. OPR’s tip here? Be patient, cordial and respectful, it’ll get you a long way – in media interviews and in life.

Now that you’ve gotten a sneak preview of a few OPR media training no-no’s, they’ll become far easier to spot! Because unfortunately, many spokespeople or interviewees don’t consult a PR pro before going on the record or on television. Remember when it comes to media interviews, “winging it” means risking becoming a cast member on a “top 10 media fails of the year” YouTube compilation video.