Handling the Media Exercise

If you are seeking a senior management position or directorship then it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with this exercise. You can view it as a unique role play designed to assess how well you perform with the press.

For the majority of 'Media Interview' exercises the behaviors you need to show are:

• Excellent Verbal Communications
• Awareness of Corporate Strategies
• Ability to Manage Stakeholder Expectations
• Confident Decision Making
• Leadership
• Evaluation & Analysis

Interaction with the press and acting as a spokesperson for your organization is most likely to be stated in your job specification, but be aware of subtle inferences that you may have to perform in this activity. The more senior your position within an organization, the more likely you are to have some dealings with the press.

For example, you may be seeking a role as 'Finance Director' and think that media interaction doesn't apply to you, but consider who the press may call to ask about the latest annual report. You could find yourself acting as the organization's spokesperson, even if only rarely.

Media interview exercise

This assessment center exercise is really a specialized role play that assesses how well you deal with and react to being interviewed by a journalist. By reading annual reports and copies of press releases you can gain an appreciation of an organization's stance when communicating with the press. Part of your preparation needs to take into account how someone in your role would be called upon to express the 'corporate' opinion.

There are a wide variety of ways you can familiarize yourself with the ethos and culture of an organization's media voice. These include looking at the internally produced material and external sources of information so that you have a balanced impression of how the organization wants to be seen and how others see it.

Internal sources involve looking at the organization's website, annual reports, current press releases, and the resulting coverage. If you have sufficient time you may even want to contact the organization's Public Relations (PR) agency to get a more in-depth view and learn its main PR focus. In some situations it is a member of the PR agency that acts as the journalist so they may be reluctant to answer your questions, but it will demonstrate initiative.

External sources require you to look at the industry press and editorials comparing the media coverage of the organization with that of its main competitors. It will also help you to see the spin journalists have put on the PR messages of the organization and forewarn you of potential traps a journalist may present to you. It also helps you substantiate your own impression of the organization and compare it with others in its industry sector.

Media interview exercise factors

The brief you will be supplied with prior to taking part in this exercise will guide you regarding the corporate stance on the issues the interview is concerned with. It will provide you with sufficient background information for you to be able to communicate appropriately with the journalist. This interview may take place over the phone as this is the usual method of contact used by journalists.

It is your behavior and reactions that are being assessed, not how well you understand the situation you are dealing with in the exercise, but it will have a strong correlation to the activities expected of someone in the role. The final aspect of this exercise may be a mock-up of what the journalist wrote following your conversation, which you can then comment on. Be honest in your reflections and don't take the resulting article to heart because how you react to such feedback is what is being assessed.

A quick way to help you prepare for this exercise is to ask yourself three simple questions. In doing so you will highlight the likely areas of contention and risk you need to guard against and how you too can steer the thread of the conversation to portray the messages you and the organization want.

1. What three things would your organization not want you to be asked about?
2. How could a journalist steer the conversation into a 'danger zone'? For example, as the main employer in this district what are you doing to safeguard the local community in light of your announcement to close this plant?
3. How can you bring your organization's key message into your replies?

The main behavior you need to exhibit during this exercise is excellent communication skills, which includes active listening. You need to display confidence in the way you handle the situation and be precise in what you say. Don't get drawn into saying something that can be misconstrued or misleading. You will be assessed on how you manage stakeholder and corporate expectations, as well as how you interpret them in relation to the topic of the media interview.

Those who perform best in media conversations always give consistent messages to the journalist and have prepared themselves well in terms of understanding the culture, ethos, and public voice of the organization. Don't forget to focus on your delivery of the messages and try to avoid inappropriate emotions creeping into your tone of voice. This is especially important if the media handling exercise is performed face to face because the journalist can assess how well your nonverbal and verbal signals match.

Whatever interview exercises you take part in as part of a recruitment or promotion process your preparation plays a key role in your success. You need to understand the competencies required for the role and ensure that you portray this at the level required. When taking part in interview exercises there are two things critical to you attaining a high score.
Firstly, read and evaluate the information contained in the brief so you clearly understand your role in the exercise.

Secondly, make clear and concise notes using a consistent method for all exercises to ensure you maximize your efficiency.
Working methodically through the exercise information explains your exact role and describes the parameters of the situation it presents. For exercises such as in-tray, critical incident, or media interview you may want to create additional information that gives you an overview of the time line of events.

This will help you understand the implications potential decisions could have on the outcome of the situation. It is extremely important that you work within the parameters outlined in your instructions and overview information. Do not make assumptions or read more into an item than actually exists.

You are being assessed on your ability to evaluate the data you are given as well as how appropriate your decisions are given this knowledge. This might mean that selecting a 'None of the above' or, 'I'd delay my decision till I had more time / information' is the most appropriate answer considering what you know.

There are certain items you should take along to interview exercises so that your preparation and exercise time is as effective as possible.

• Calculator (if allowed)
• Colored pens, pencils, and highlighters
• Post-it notes, scrap paper, and eraser
• Geometry set (if required for role)

The intensity of these types of exercises often means that it is extremely difficult to complete the whole exercise. This is because you can be assessed on how you respond to such circumstances! But your goal should always be to complete it all.

By practicing interview exercises prior to taking part you will become familiar with the competencies each one requires you to display. You will also become conscious of any behaviors you need to alter or acquire to ensure you behave at the correct level for the role. The ultimate bonus of preparing thoroughly is that you will greatly improve your overall score and your chances of success.

You may also be interested in:
Preparing for Interview Exercises | In-Tray or In-Basket Exercise | Role Play Exercise | Group Exercise | Presentation Exercise | Handling the Media Exercise.

Key Points

  • Media interviews are a specialized role play that assesses how well you deal with being interviewed by a journalist.
  • If you are seeking a senior management position or directorship then you should familiarize yourself with this exercise.
  • Find and read any press releases and any resulting coverage so you can see how the press views the organization.
  • Try to speak to the organization's Public Relations (PR) agency account manager who should be able to provide you with a 'Notes to Editors,' which lists key achievements, strategic objectives, and target press.
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