Book Reviews

Public Relations

Media Training 101: A Guide to Meeting the Press

Author: Sally Stewart
Publisher Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
Publication Date: September 2003

Reviewer:Andy Marken
In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

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We received our double degrees in radio and TV and journalism. With client managers and executives we've attended four media training courses in the past eight years. And the list could go on but the point is what can some former journalist turned consultant write that will keep us interested, educate us and assist us in our professional activities?

To our chagrin and delight, '>Media Training 101 is one of the very few books we believe every public relations professional should have in his/her library and the one book they should encourage every executive in their organization to read.

The book's title - '>Media Training 101 - is one of its disarming strengths. How could a "freshman course" frighten or challenge you? This is something any CEO, senior or middle manager knows he or she could skate through in no time at all. There is nothing to worry about. It's only a 100-level course?


The book makes you think. It makes you examine every aspect of how you interact and respond to the media whether you've been in the profession for many years or you're preparing for your first position. More importantly it provides a viable; easy to follow roadmap that any executive can follow and benefit from.

The challenge is getting them to take the book and read it thoroughly. Any executive who has risen to a position of responsibility and authority knows he or she can handle the press regardless of the situation.

After all we have all seen how easily technology managers like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Andy Grove, John Chambers, Carly Fiorina and others handle their interviews. Your CEO and executive team have been in the business just as many years. They know how to think strategically, answer questions and talk so there is little they can gain by really reading, digesting and analyzing Ms. Stewart's book. The difference is that all of the executives just mentioned have taken extensive media training. They constantly seek out constructive analysis of every significant media encounter.

Even with all of our training and practice we've always kicked ourselves for leaving out the best sound bite that would have completely turned the interview in our favor. We're certain that all of these executives have the same postmortem problems.

Your executives may not be able to budget for permanent media training - and retraining - for the firm's senior members, but a few copies of the book circulated by your CEO to the managers followed by a half-day discussion/analysis can put everyone on the right track.

There is no sure fire, easy way for public relations people or their managers to work with the media. Even if your company is publicly held few of your encounters will be adversarial. But every interview represents an open opportunity for you to enhance your company's image and market position.

Ms. Stewart points out the deadly interview pitfalls. She outlines how you can control a crisis and how you can use common journalism interview tactics to your advantage. She provides general guidelines on how to develop your key message points and then ensure you get them across in a clear, concise and effective manner.

Drawing on her years of experience as a reporter with USA Today, she helps you understand the way journalists think and the types of information they believe is news as well as the information that isn't newsworthy. Best of all, she lays out clear, concise guidelines on the ten things you never say to a reporter.

Even if you begin reading '>Media Training 101 as we did - with the full knowledge that there will be little you can gain from Ms. Stewart's writings, you will quickly find yourself drawn into the book. This is a long way from a dry, memorize the answers textbook.

Instead reading the book almost feels as though she is leading you through the thought process of every tough journalist you have ever met. She lays out logical but proven strategies on how your organization can address crises situations, handle the interview in a responsible/responsive manner and achieve your objectives given all of the circumstances surrounding the crisis.

Ms. Stewart's points are made effectively and her writing is easy to follow, almost entertaining while educational.

However, we believe what every reader will find most beneficial are the vignettes, anecdotes and actual case studies she includes at the end of every chapter. She presents the guidelines, gives you examples of what worked and didn't work and then explains why it succeeded or failed.

'>Media Training 101 is a complete training and personal effectiveness evaluation tool that will help any public relations professional. More importantly, ensuring your management team has read the book two or three times will make it a lot easier for PR people to ensure their company and management emerge from the interview with few or no bruises.

Get a copy of '>Media Training 101 for your personal library and a copy or two for your corporate library. For optimum results…have your CEO route the book to his or her executives with a friendly note that he or she encourages them to read the book and pass it along.