THE BLOG
12/21/2015 03:22 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2016

Was a Famous Executive the Victim of Bad Media Training?

Not that long ago, I was watching a CEO of a major retail chain being interviewed by Jim Cramer on CNBC. Every time the guest answered a question, he started his answer with the hosts name. Jim Cramer knows what his name is and so does his audience. The retail boss was told by a misguided media trainer that he you should mention the interviewers name constantly. The thinking (or lack of it) is that TV people have big egos and love to hear the sound of their own name. The ego part maybe true--I can say that because I'm a former network talk show host and reporter--but the constant mentioning of Cramer's name is not only annoying but sounds phony. No one does that in natural conversation.

Good media training is about helping the client formulate messages that mean something to the audience. It's not about, "Gee, let me tell you how great we are," rather it's about connecting what you do to what the audience cares about. When you make any statement in an interview or presentation, you need to ask yourself, "What's in it for them? What problems can I solve?" Audiences don't care that much about you. They are interested in what you can do for them.

Also, tell the audience something new. Repeating the familiar turns audiences off.

Another mistake bad media trainers make is telling a client that they don't have to answer the question, just say whatever you want no matter what you're asked. If the interviewer is any good, they will pose the question again, until you answer it.

What the person being interviewed can do is ask and answer their own questions. Before the host continues you can say, "I'm often asked...." or "Sometimes people want to know..." This technique helps you to stay on message and ensures (especially in a live interview) that you get your points across. A good interviewer is interested in smart information. If it happens to come as a result of your question, so be it. That doesn't mean that you won't be asked follow ups, but at least you've laid your markers on the table.

If you're not sure what the question is or means, you can ask for clarification. Or you can request that it be re-phrased.

If an interviewer makes a mistake in the body or the question, correct it quickly. Then you can legitimately ask yourself the question with the proper information.

Reporters love to ask hypothetical questions. "Well let's say the economy tanks..." or "What if so and so is elected President..." What's in it for you to guess the future? You could be wrong and it could come back to haunt you. You're not Nostradamus. You can simply say, "I don't answer hypothetical questions. But here's what I do know...."

You can forecast trends if based on smart studies, data and your own experience. That's not delving into the guessing game.

Always interpret what you mean. You may think you're being clear but the audience may not understand you. Follow statements with sentences such has "Here's what I mean by that," or "Here's an example of what I'm talking about."

I'm a big proponent of media training but only if it's done wisely and well.

Bob Berkowitz is a communications trainer with The Dilenschneider Group.