A form of training in which politicians, business executives, movie stars and others are shown how to behave in a press interview, and how to answer questions in a manner which blocks negative stories while promoting positive stories.

There are many different courses tackling the subject in different ways, some emphasise TV and video interviews, others emphasise radio, and another group emphasise press interviews. In all these cases, many of the tips and techniques are similar.

Typically the course describes the different types of media. These often include TV, radio, newspapers, business magazines and, increasingly, web-based news sites. Each type of media is profiled, together with their sources of funding and the way the journalists and news programmes are driven. Participants are given basic advice on how easy it is to influence the journalists involved, and ways that might be achieved. Beyond that, the participants are given advice specific to each type of medium.

For example, on TV, appearance is important. It is vital not to look shifty, suspicious, or nervous. Course attendees are given practice at appearing on TV, and being interviewed by professional journalists. The tapes are then played back and used as a learning experience. People quickly learn what looks good and what does not.

The core of such courses, however, is how to deal with difficult questions. Some courses bring in a pack of business journalists who have great fun asking extremely rude and nasty questions of the unfortunate course attendees, while the hapless participants try to field simultaneous questions from 10 or 20 aggressive journalists. Course participants find this testing, to say the least.

Positive techniques taught include

1. Answering clearly and concisely. 2. Remaining calm and polite 3. Admitting to failures, and explaining how the problem has been resolved and can never happen again 4. Smiling and calling the interviewer by their informal name

Negative techniques include

1. Decide what you are going to say in advance, and say it, irrespective of the question. 2. Keep on talking so that the time allocated to the interview runs out 3. Patronise or attack the interviewer 4. Attack the basis of the question, or the research upon which it is based

Note: this piece written, formatted and edited in dann's off-line scratchpad

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