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New book challenges media relations approach: Eric Bergman, ABC, voices the need to balance speaking and listening.

CW Executive Editor Natasha Spring spoke recently with author Eric Bergman, ABC, about his new book, Media Training with Excellence: A Balanced Approach. 23 read the full interview--a CW exclusive--visit

CW: The standard for media relations has been that staying on message is the best way to present an organization in the most favorable light. In your new book, you challenge this idea. Why?

EB: The theory behind staying on message is that if an organization keeps repeating itself long enough and loud enough, some of what it says will make it through the reporter, editor or producer to the audiences important to the organization's success. This simplistic approach is not good enough in today's information-driven world, as power shifts from sender to receiver in the communication process. Today's organizations need to match the right information with the people seeking that information, as those people ask questions about the organization, its activities, its goals and its purpose.

Staying on message is also not conducive to building strong working relationships. In any relationship, whether personal or professional, we know that communication is important to success. And, to communicate effectively with others, listening is just as important--if not more important--than talking.

Media Training with Excellence teaches spokespeople to listen carefully to the questions asked and provide clear, concise answers. Only then are they taught to find places to weave in, not drive home, messages important to the organization's success. This allows a spokesperson to learn to communicate effectively, as a means of building better relationships with stakeholders of all types.

CW: Please describe your media relations training method.

EB: The program is designed to provide communication and public relations professionals with tools to coach spokespeople to manage interviews and all question-and-answer exchanges with employees, customers, regulators, politicians or others, to produce win-win scenarios whenever possible. Research shows that an essential skill in excellent communication is negotiation, and in most situations the best possible outcome in negotiation is when both parties have their needs met.

Reporters ask questions for a living. To meet their needs, spokespeople need to answer questions clearly and concisely to allow the reporter or other stakeholder to probe the organization's logic by asking as many questions as possible. By definition, this also reduces risk in media interviews, because spokespeople are taught to say less, thereby significantly reducing the risk of being quoted out of context.

CW: If you had only three pieces of advice to share with communicators about how best to relate to the media, what would they be?

EB: One, make sure that your approach to media relations is consistent from start to finish. Two, teach your spokespeople to listen. Three, teach your spokespeople to stop talking once they have answered a question.

For more information about Media Training with Excellence: A Balanced Approach, visit
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:in box: IABC NEWS & EVENTS
Author:Spring, Natasha
Publication:Communication World
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 1, 2006
Previous Article:Message received.
Next Article:IABC volunteer leaders to convene in California.

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