When the Training Works

Media training is almost always super discreet.

Chances are the people you see on the telly, or in your social media feed,  have had some form of media training, and probably some help to get their story out there. But they don’t want you to know it. It’s meant to look effortless when you get it right.

I’ve trained people from many walks of life. From politicians to  professionals,  and a whole lot more. Non-disclosure agreements, common sense and often a good old-fashioned handshake, mean what I am about to say is very rare.

One of my most recent training and consultancy session was way outside the norm. This time, it got personal.

The phone rings on a Saturday afternoon.  A good friend is in tears, she is scared, desperate and asking for help. By now, thanks to some strategic media coverage, you probably know her story.

Candice Dix and her husband Chris are proud parents of two healthy and boisterous  little boys here in Perth. They wanted more kids but Candice couldn’t carry them. So they embarked on an overseas surrogacy program, in the Ukraine.

Back in November last year, when Corona was still just the cold drink you enjoyed on a hot day, their surrogate fell pregnant with twins. To be perfectly clear – the twins are biologically Chris and Candice’s kids.

Fast forward to a different time, the world in lockdown and a pandemic wreaking havoc. The pregnancy in the Ukraine was going well and it was time for Chris and Candice to board a flight and head over to their twins. They got the OK to leave Australia and had a return tickets booked. They waved goodbye to their kids in Perth and told them they’d be home soon. But…turns out they wouldn’t.

Borders closed, caps were harsh, and they were stuck in a tiny Kiev apartment with their newborns…trying everything they could to get back to Australia.

This family are my kind of people. They are kind, generous, loving. You know that saying about  needing a village to raise your kids? Well these guys are part of my village, and I’m grateful they are. They’re both super clever. She is an industrial hygienist for Rio Tinto, and he heads up a team of engineers.

Their call for help proves that you can be an absolute expert in what you do, but you can’t be an expert at everything. It’s why you ask for advice when something sits outside your area of expertise.

 So when they asked me for media help, I was pretty determined to make sure their story stood out from the crowd, and that their message was heard.

We started with the training. Over Zoom, while they battled sleep deprivation and were feeding crying newborns, we found a way to harness the emotion into a clear message. Their first challenge was a really common one. You’re never going to get across everything you know in a media interview. Their story was long and complicated, so how do you work out which part of the story to tell?

The answer was simple, I asked them ‘why are you doing this interview?’. The penny dropped. If you don’t know why you’re doing the interview, then why bother doing it? It’s the most undervalued  piece of advice for anyone about to embark on media interviews. Have a think about what you want to achieve, why you want to do  this? Once you’ve worked that out…the rest is just making sure you get there.

So we had or message, then we practiced how to deliver it, regardless of the question they were asked. Like most people who have not dealt with the media before, they were surprised to learn there were so many easy hacks that would steer an interview.

Then, we worked on getting the coverage. Interview after interview. Our contacts in the industry helped give them exposure on every single free to air TV network. As a producer, I captured the key moments with their kids in Perth I knew would help propel their story for Sunrise and The Project.

The message was clear, and it was heard. The media blitz helped.

The next day they boarded a flight home. They’re not quite reunited with their kids yet, they’re serving out quarantine time first. But, when we finally get to see each other in real life rather than through the lens of a Zoom call, I’m pretty sure they’ll talk for hours about their ordeal, their feelings and their hopes.

Sitting back with friends is the forum to do that. They were smart enough not to waste their media opportunity by deviating from the key message, and trying to tell their whole story in a handful of short grabs. Know your message, and you’re much more likely to deliver it.

Written by

She’s the secret weapon behind a number of highly acclaimed television broadcasts, a producer with more than 20 years’ experience.