Entrepreneurs often ask me, “How do I get coverage in Forbes?” or “How do I make the Forbes 30 Under 30 list?” 

It’s also common to wonder why they should wait to share company news on social channels or spend more time building relationships with journalists instead of focusing on something like social media advertising that delivers clear and fast results. 

These are perfectly reasonable questions from anyone who has not spent much time working with news outlets. As a PR expert who has worked closely with mass media for 15 years, I can give comprehensive guidance that not only answers these questions but analyzes them and empowers entrepreneurs to succeed. 

Media training for leaders and C-suite executives is foundational to successful brand communications. It helps the speaker understand the rules of interacting with audiences and reporters, teaches them the journalistic process and underscores the importance of maintaining a consistent, positive business reputation.

What is Media Training in PR?

There are two main types of media training: general and situation-specific. More specific types of coaching can include crisis communication or special event prep. Regardless of the situation, it is always best to have advance preparation because this limits the chances of saying something that could be unintentionally harmful to the company. 

Two important aspects of PR instruction are developing leadership skills concerning media interactions and deftly answering questions to reflect the company’s interests. In-depth training gives participants the tools and skills to effectively convey key messages to stakeholders and the public. 

Is Media Training Truly So Important? 

Media training can be thought of as proactive crisis management. In my experience, every entrepreneur has their own idea of how journalists work and how to communicate with them. However, it is crucial to ensure their understanding is correct. 

For example, the founder of a fintech company once gave an interview to a business publication. He refused to prepare, citing that he was seasoned in media communications. Unfortunately, during the interview, I immediately saw that his previous experience wasn’t enough and his skills needed to be improved. His answers to questions about business figures were confusing and unconvincing, and when he tried to skip over a question, the interviewer kept returning to the topic, causing an uncomfortable moment. 

Hence, I follow a “discuss first” policy with every new client. Coaching can benefit anyone before any media engagement because it can help reduce the risk of being misquoted or caught off guard by a delicate question. It also boosts confidence and allows speakers to practice making key points a natural part of the conversation rather than waiting for the interviewer to ask the “right” question. 

As a bonus, it helps founders connect with their PR teams and understand their struggles and results more effectively. 

What Does Media Training Teach? 

During this type of training, I give an overview of the media landscape in relevant markets, review processes, explain what PR can and cannot do and outline why a big media outlet isn’t always the best choice for their goals. I also warn entrepreneurs that there are no do-overs; headlines can’t be changed, and quotes can’t be removed. 

I always explain the journalist’s journey as well. Before anything is published, they go through several stages of gathering, prepping and verifying information.  

The Three Stages of a Journalist’s Journey

First, they must find the information, which is complicated by several factors. News has a very short life cycle (usually only 2-3 days), and there is immense competition to get early access to details. They must also contend with censorship, tight-lipped companies and social networks: If an entrepreneur has already posted about something on social media, it’s no longer exclusive. 

Journalists focus on criteria like relevance, agenda, scale, local interest and overall coverage of a company or individual when collecting information.

The second step is information processing. Speed, verification and source reliability are key here. It’s important to know your rights when communicating with media contacts. You can ask what topic the publication covers, what agenda the release is timed around and which speakers have already given quotes. You can also request your final quote for approval before publishing.

Finally, after the news is live, you must be prepared to see a catchy or clickbait-style headline because the journalist is fighting for the public’s attention. This isn’t necessarily bad; a flashy headline can bring more recognition than a dry, factual one. However, be sure the title isn’t so clickable that it doesn’t reflect reality. If that happens, it’s time to seek edits.

Do’s and Don’ts of Media Interaction

If we are planning an interview, media coaching helps prepare answers, consider controversial points and approve key data and figures. I also share do’s and don’ts, such as: 

  • Only start communication if you are ready for full disclosure. Journalists verify data carefully, using at least three independent sources, so they will find out everything about your company.
  • Never ask to change a published headline, quote or figure (unless it’s factually incorrect). If the news or interview has already been published and you discover a mistake, the only way to rectify it is via refutation or a clarifying quote. As a rule, a journalist will add new information below the original piece.
  • Don’t expect your news to be published unchanged. If a reporter prepares a feature story, they always seek market data, expert quotes and related information before release.
  • Never speak in general terms. Give specific names, dates and precise statistics. Remember: If you don’t tell, other experts will. In one instance, an entrepreneur refused to disclose the company’s valuation, so the interviewer asked for the opinion of market experts. Later, he noted the figures in the article were three times lower than reality.

A Great Media Relationship is Essential, and So is Media Training

Media protection laws and journalistic ethics protect reporters and news outlets, so it is vital to clearly understand the risks and opportunities that arise when communicating with journalists. For example, U.S. correspondents are granted freedom of the press by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This gives them the right to publish and disseminate uncensored, unrestrained information and opinions. 

Remember that the relationship with the media is a two-way street. Journalists need information and expert sources just as much as founders need good reporting. This is one reason why PR specialists exist: We can help bridge the gap by providing coaching to speakers and connections to journalists.

The truth is that most speakers are less prepared than they think to build strong media relationships, but knowing the rules of engagement gives them a confidence-boosting edge that allows for more effective communication.