PR Training

Media Training: A 5 Step Process to Drive Message Development and Interview Preparation

Spokespersons—and PR practitioners who provide behind-the-scene counsel and support—know successful communications skills are honed by media training and practice. The most effective are strategic and follow a simple five-step process to drive message development and interview preparation.

Debbie WetherheadI’m so looking forward to presenting “Media Training: How to Deliver Compelling Messages” on Monday, Oct. 15 from 11:45 a.m.–1 p.m. At last year’s Conference, this session attracted a standing-room only crowd that generated stimulating questions and dynamic interactions. I hope you’ll plan to attend this year’s workshop and join the fast-paced, engaging program designed to guide you through spokesperson preparation, message development, delivery and control techniques, and personal presence.

Spokespersons—and PR practitioners who provide behind-the-scene counsel and support—know successful communications skills are honed by media training and practice. The most effective are strategic and follow a simple five-step process to drive message development and interview preparation. 

1.  Set an Agenda

Leadership guru Stephen Covey instructed disciples to begin with the end in mind. The same principle applies to agenda setting. Before each interview, identify your business objective(s) to clarify who you need to reach and what you want to say.

Further, ask yourself, “If I could write the headline or story lead, what would I want it to state? If interviewed, what quotes would I want attributed to me or my organization?” Your conclusions should be reflected in key messages, supporting information, Q&A responses and a pre-planned closing statement.

2.  Craft Key Messages

With repeated use, key messages ensure dissemination of clear, consistent and compelling information. This critical tool can help you prioritize information, stay focused and obtain measurable results.

Develop three key messages to serve as the foundation for all communications and to weave into each interview. They should fit on one page: each as two or three sentences in length or 15 to 30 seconds when spoken.

Be more strategic than simply the “three most important things.” Craft messages that:

  • Describe a product, service, program, organization or point of view       .
  • Differentiate the product, service, program, organization or point of view and showcase strategic leadership.
  • Focus on the benefits to the target audience, clearly stating what’s in it for them.

3.  Prove Your Points

Your goal is to introduce and reinforce key messages. Supporting information can extend a conversation, offering proof and adding credibility by using:

  • Facts: Use simple and descriptive statements.
  • Statistics or figures: Put information into easy-to-understand or quantifiable terms.
  • Authorities: Quote credible, relevant third-party experts.
  • Stories: Share a case study, personal experience, anecdote or analogy.

4.  Ready for Q&A

Speculate about potential interview questions. Go beyond who, what, where, when, how and why to include inquiries being fielded by the c-suite, PR and sales. Consider what’s topical in the news or your industry, as well as what you’re afraid of being asked. After listing 20 to 25 potential queries, you can arm yourself with key message-laden responses and seek needed data or counsel in advance of the interview.

5.  Make a Lasting Impression

Because people often remember what they hear first and last, it’s worthwhile to pre-plan a meaningful closing statement that reinforces your benefit statement. It will resonate with your target audience and drive a desired response.

Media training often focuses on delivery and control techniques, offers ways to enhance personal presence and engages participants in mock interviews. Yet, what a spokesperson has to say—and articulates in compelling key messages—is most important. It won’t matter that your shoes are shined if your foot is in your mouth!

Hope to see you in San Francisco!

Debbie Wetherhead is president of Wetherhead Communications. She manages public relations programs for globally recognized names such as The Coca-Cola Company, Beazer Homes, Digital Insurance, YKK, NASA and more. Her firm is best known for its ability to generate positive publicity and finesse business communications. Backed by 25+ years of experience, Wetherhead has conducted nearly 500 media, presentation, crisis communications and key message development trainings, and has presented at three PRSA International Conferences and to numerous Chapters nationwide.

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Debbie Wetherhead


  • Coming from a college stand point, I graduate in May and I’m hoping to go into public relations (it’s my major).  This list is incredibly helpful and I think what stood out most for me was the “Make a lasting impression” point.  Being a more visual person, it’s important to “show,” not only “tell” about yourself.  I’m constantly searching for advice on how to effectively approach interviews and what I need to do in order to deliver and sell myself.  

    The interview process is relevant to a PR agenda because it’s a process.  It doesn’t just happen, it requires an agenda and lots of steps building up to the final product.  It’s important to be organized and convey to someone else that you’ll maintain that with a prospective company.

  • I have worked with Debbie often through the years and she is not only a well-respected PR professional, but also an excellent speaker.  This should be a great program!

  • I really appreciated this post for its breakdown and individual emphasis on the importance of each step. It becomes far too easy to get into the motions of doing an interview without constantly striving to do better. I really agree with your point to come up with about 25 Q&A questions in preparation for anything that might be thrown at you. Also, I liked your advice that a closing statement should be planned beforehand. So many times you see people losing their message at the end, when it is such a crucial time getting in the final idea for the audience to be left with.  

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