26 May 2014

What I learned in Media Training

Author: krb3k | Filed under: communication, community, Uncategorized

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen this exchange a few months ago:

 

too short

 

The tweet itself is self-explanatory, though perhaps what’s not so clear is why I was in media training to begin with. As Ryan Harris (@RyLoLH) asked:

 

"Kimberley, have you taken too much Benadryl?"

“Kimberley, have you taken too much Benadryl?”

 

As I told Ryan then, “Who knows?” (In fact, I have talked to reporters before, but they were fluffy stories with friendly journalists writing feel-good stories- this will be germane to the story later on). I was taking part in this training because it is part of the LAM (Leadership in Academic Matters) Program, for which I was nominated back in the autumn (thank you, Dr. Becker!), and in which I participated last semester.

 

Not THAT kind of lamb! You're outta here, Fluffy!

Not THAT kind of lamb! You’re outta here, Fluffy!

LAM was launched in 2004 as a “means of developing, inspiring, and rewarding faculty who have demonstrated leadership characteristics and future potential within the School of Medicine.” Since then, it has expanded outside of the School of Medicine to become a university-wide opportunity. It covers a wide range of topics including the operation of the University, work/life balance, mindfulness, education about high-performing teams, difficult conversations, etc, and delivers the information through guest speakers. You can read more about the program here , if you’re interested.  (*Note to self: I need to do an entire post devoted to what I learned from LAM).

In addition to the regularly-scheduled meetings (every Monday from 8:30AM-noon, for 10 weeks at beautiful Morven Farm), lectures and other opportunities occasionally take place at other times. One of those is Media Training, and it is an incredible gift (an incredibly PAINFUL gift while you’re experiencing it), but amazing nonetheless. As I would later describe it to the (somewhat horrified seminar leaders), it’s like when I began studying hap ki do and was punched and knocked down for the first time: it hurt, but what was even more debilitating was the SURPRISE of how much it hurts. While I continued to get punched- someone teach this woman how to block STAT!- the shock of it eventually went away. It was sort of like, “Oh, yeah, that REALLY hurt, keep moving”. Media training did that for me.

Jeanne Meserve (@JeanneMeserve), Director of Training at The Communication Center- and a former CNN correspondent- passed along a LOT of excellent tips for interacting with the press, my favorite of which I am going to share with you. Some of you may think that you’ll never speak to the press, that that sort of thing is above your pay grade, and that may well be true. However, this stuff is applicable in a variety of situations, including the “elevator speech” situation or the “out of nowhere, someone demands that you justify your professional existence” situation. I also know for a fact that lots of #medlibs are community activists, and that you may encounter the press in that role. So, here they are:

 

TEN PRINCIPLES OF COMMUNICATION

1. Be yourself

2. Be comfortable & confident

3. Be forthright

4. Be brief

5. Be genuine

6. Be personal

7. Be positive & consistent

8. Be attentive

9. Be energetic

10. Be committed & sincere

(copyright 2014 by The Communication Center)

These tips were very helpful to me, especially when I paired them with the following thought:

An interview is not something nice that the reporter is doing for you. An interview is the reporter’s way of getting information. It isn’t a chat between friends, or even friendly acquaintances. It isn’t the reporter’s job to make sure that you or your cause are perceived positively (no matter how nice or well-intentioned you are).

Ok, Fluttershy, I get it: I'M A DUMMY! Sorry, geez.

Ok, Fluttershy, I get it: I’M A DUMMY! Sorry, geez.

In my defense, all of my previous experiences with reporters have been of the fluffy “atta girl” variety: You’re a high schooler who started an Environmental Club at school? Awww, aren’t you precious?; You’re a young librarian who champions the right for equal information access for all? Wonderful! I have never had the experience of being completely misrepresented by the press. I’ve never had a reporter go after me like a starving wolf during the Fell Winter. (Thank goodness- those were NOT nice times in the Shire). However, Jeanne Meserve, in her persona of the Reporter Who Smells Blood, gave me a small taste of that. And, yes, emotionally, it was exactly like being punched and knocked down for the first time: I hurt, I was confused, I wasn’t exactly sure what had happened, and I didn’t know that I needed to GET UP NOW. Now, though, through the process described below, I believe any encounters with reporters would go very differently.

You see, each participant was recorded during the mock interview? Ohhhhhh yeah. (I have my dvd- and it makes me squirm and cringe to watch it). We’d been divided into small groups for the exercise, and we watched each other’s recordings immediately after they were made. Talk about a trust-building exercise, ugh. Jeanne went over each second of each interview with us, critiquing and complimenting our performances. Of me she said that my enthusiasm was a plus, but to restrain it somewhat (I know, I know). She also warned me about waving my hands around when I talk and, after seeing one of them rise up from the bottom of the screen like a whale breaching the ocean, I could only agree.

"Look, there goes my hand!"

“Look, there goes my hand!”

The other HUGE takeaway for me was the idea that the interviewee has the right to set the ground rules. I know: some of you are probably shaking your heads and wondering just how dumb I am. However, in my mind, the idea has always been that the reporter is doing me a favor by giving my cause airtime, and therefore I should be as accommodating as possible. Not so!, says Jeanne. The interviewee has the right to sit down for the interview, to ask that the camera stop recording, to start an answer again, etc, etc- I had no idea. That is probably the most valuable gift that Jeanne gave me: the belief that I have the right (and the responsibility, as well) to take control of the interview.

I am very grateful to Jeanne for her time and advice, and to UVa’s Leadership in Academic Matters Program for making the experience possible. It was incredibly helpful. I hope that at least some of what I’ve shared here will be useful to you in the #medlibs community. After all, you really never know what life is going to throw at you.

You really just never know...

You really just never know…