State Execs Benefit from Media Training

State Execs Benefit From Media Training

CAT URBIGKIT
Special to the Sheep Industry News

It’s not about you – it’s about connecting with your audience. That’s the take-home for state sheep association executives attending a media training session led by Wendy Pinkerton of Demeter Communications.

“There are a lot of people who would like to tell your story,” she said, referring to animal rights activists. “The way to counter that is to actively jump in and tell your story.”
More than 98 percent of the population has little to no knowledge or connection to agriculture, so it’s important that agricultural representatives provide effective messaging to the public.

“A message is how you communicate your point of view so that it connects with your audience,” she said. But we must adjust that message to the audience before us to ensure we are making that connection – whether it’s a group of third graders, or their mothers. There are a variety of components to an effective message, including providing information that is:

• Factual and credible

• Clear and concise

• Relevant to the audience

• Relays personal ownership

• Frequent and consistent

• Speaks with a unified voice

When an industry leader, producer or representative is contacted for a media interview, use this first contact to set up a later time to conduct the interview (even if it’s just a few hours later). Meanwhile, you’ll have time to consider and prepare the messaging that should be emphasized, and to also conduct research on the media outlet or reporter to get a feel for the reporting style or site.

Pinkerton advises industry representatives develop key messages beforehand, and to think of these messages as headlines. Messages must be credible, should offer proof, and be clear and concise. Don’t try to convey more than three ideas.

Media interviews are not typical conversations involving simply answering questions. “It’s an opportunity to first answer the question, and then follow up with your message,” Pinkerton said.

In answering, take the reporter back to your message. Use words such as “What I want people to remember,” or “What’s really important is.” Be positive and conversational in tone, but use your messages, she advises.

“In any situation, I want you to answer with a message,” she said, explaining how it’s done. For example, if you are asked a hostile question, answer, “That’s a common misconception. What’s true is this,” and bring the focus back to your message.

Follow up by monitoring coverage, and say thank you, correct misinformation and continue to be a source.

“Who better than you to speak about your industry?” Pinkerton questioned.

MEDIA TIPS

Be Effective
• Establish yourself as a credible source

• Follow reporters and bloggers

• Know that a reporter will check your social media postings, so be sure your postings reflect a positive message of your industry

Avoid
• Defending the status quo

• Saying that changes will force us out of business. Instead, focus on legacy and family.

• Trying to discredit peers/opposition. Don’t mention opposition groups by name.

• Science over emotion. Use science to support your message, but don’t lead with it.

• Saying no comment, or going off the record. Assume anything you say is on the record.

• Personal opinions. Stay on message.

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