Why your lawyers need media training.

Author:Mariam, Tom

It is one thing to get an opportunity to be interviewed by the media, but it's quite another to take full advantage of that opportunity. A consistent and strategic media training program can go a long way toward making sure your lawyers maximize their press opportunities, which are a significant marketing tool for them and their firms.

Lawyers should approach press interviews the same way they approach court cases, major transactions and client meetings: with plenty of preparation and the attitude that nothing else is more important at that time. Lawyers can prepare for dealing with the press successfully by going through a media training session--or, really, multiple sessions, since press communications is an evolving skill that always can be improved.

The importance of media training is based on a simple premise, as Suzanne Franchetti, president of Franchetti Communications, states: "Everything you say may be used in an interview. The more prepared you are, the easier it will be to feel comfortable, even if the interviewer asks an unexpected question or one that seems in poor taste. Controlling your reaction, remaining pleasant and having a response to steer the interview back in the right direction is important."

Media training boils down to message development and message delivery. You need both to be robust and to produce a successful press interview. Without a strong message and an effective way of delivering it, the interview can easily become counter-productive.

There is a classic scene from the original "Bob Newhart Show," in which Newhart's character, Dr. Bob Hartley, accepts an invitation to be a guest on a local morning TV show to discuss what psychologists do. It was a great opportunity to promote his practice. Dr. Hartley, however, decided to "wing it," as he put it.

Dr. Hartley let the host take total control of the interview, resulting in his becoming defensive and focusing on topics he clearly did not want to discuss publicly, such as specific clients and what he charges. He obviously did not prepare a clear message to frame the interview the way he wanted.

While the scene provided great comedy, there is nothing funny about an interview that goes wrong, whether it be broadcast, print or online. Thus, media training can be a valuable investment with which you can protect your firm, its lawyers and, on some occasions, your clients.

Many companies and organizations have embraced media training to enhance their images. The...

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