Media Training for Writers

Leah Ingram

As a writer, you’re used to being in the interviewer seat. But once you write a book or start a blog, you’ll likely need to do interviews to promote your work, meaning you’ll need to take the interviewee seat. If you’ve never been media trained, you could be in trouble.

Media training teaches you new skills for answering questions, speaking succinctly and appearing confident once the cameras start rolling, the radio interview begins or a reporter hits “start” on a recorder. I know this from being media trained and from training others. Now I’m bringing my media training know-how to Members’ Day at the 2015 ASJA Conference “Connect for Success.” My session “Media Training for Writers” (Session T07) will include an opportunity for members to submit a media interview they’ve done, and then those chosen will receive a constructive critique from me and a mini media training session right there, on the spot.

In advance of that session, which occurs on Thursday, April 30 at 11 a.m., here are three of the nearly dozen media training tips I’ll be sharing.

  1. Practice smiling when you talk. It wasn’t until a media trainer videotaped me speaking that I realized that I frowned when I talked. This surprised me, since I’m always smiling–except, it seems, when giving a talk. If you want your audience to feel engaged, you need to smile. So started practicing.
  2. Rehearse sound bites of what you want to say. ASJA’s own Jack El-Hai hired a speaking coach before he started doing interviews for his 2007 book “The Lobotomist.” She helped him perfect the story behind “The Lobotomist” into different versions of the same sound bite, which he practiced before each media interview.
  3. 3. Avoid filler when you talk. You know how teenagers insert “like” into every sentence? Well, adults have their own version of “like” in the form of “um” and “ah” and “you know.” You’ll never know if you’re guilty of these fillers without recording yourself and listening back. Then you can practice your message points without falling back on filler. Pausing to think–versus saying um for the hundredth time–in an interview makes you appear more thoughtful.

If you’re interested in participating in my media training for writers panel, please email me a link to a TV interview by April 1st. Please put “Media Training for Writers ASJA” in your email subject line. I look forward to hearing from members.