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How to Avoid Foot-in-Mouth Disease

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On a daily basis, we see celebrities, politicians and business leaders jam their designer shoes firmly in their mouths during media interviews. You can regularly read a hilarious collection of them in Merrie Spaeth's infamous Bimbo Awards.

Now you'd think that people of that stature would have been media trained. The problem is, however, that many people simply don't know how to determine if their media trainer is qualified to prepare them properly. Retaining someone to provide a service about which you know little yourself can always be tricky, whether it be an auto mechanic, a lawyer, a plumber, a computer tech or -- the topic du jour -- a media trainer.

Below are a list of questions to ask any potential media trainer. The answers should help avoid foot-in-mouth disease when a reporter's microphone is in your face -- assuming, of course, that you listen to your trainer's advice!

  1. Have you been a working journalist yourself?

  2. If yes to #1, what type of journalist were you (e.g., anchor, investigative reporter)?

  3. If no to #1, what is the basis for your understanding of the media?

  4. Does your training include how to deal with non-traditional media, e.g., social media?

  5. Do you teach us how we can maintain the skills we have learned from you? Be specific.

  6. Does your training prepare us both for routine interviews and for crisis-level interviews?

  7. How long have you been a media trainer?

  8. Could you show me anything you've written about this topic, and/or articles in which you've been interviewed?

  9. If the stuff hits the fan, can you also provide us with spot advice on what we can say?

  10. Are you an experienced media interview subject yourself -- i.e. do you practice what you preach?

Shoes belong on your feet, not in your mouth, so use the above to make sure you get the best possible media training.