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Media training in a virtual world.

COVID-19: Facing the media in a virtual world

COVID-19 has changed the world forever. And the impact on news gathering and people who must face the media has been profound.

Social distancing requirements have meant that it is no longer a simple matter of calling a media conference or responding to a media request with a face-to-face interview in front of the camera. So many other logistical issues must now be factored into balance health and safety needs with communication objectives.

But the need to speak to the media as a conduit to a broader audience in these difficult times is more important than ever.

A population largely stuck at home represents a captive audience on a scale perhaps never seen before. However, to ensure your message hits the mark, it’s vital to present and deliver well.

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Media and on-camera training have long been recognised by business and government as an essential part of building the capacity of established and emerging leaders. Previously, this would have been solely to engage with journalists.

But given the explosion in video as the number one communications tool in recent years (and the fact that 80 per cent of all internet traffic is projected to be video by next year), appearing confident, calm and engaging on camera is increasingly a vital communications tool, even for those people who are unlikely to ever have to face the media.

Just as facing more traditional media on the other side of a video camera or in a perfectly lit studio requires strong media skills, so too does being interviewed in the virtual world.

Platforms such as Skype, Zoom and WebEx enable business and government leaders to reach their audiences through the media quickly and safely, without breaching strict social distancing protocols.

But facing the media in the virtual world presents other issues that can impact on performance and how you are perceived. Some issues are technical and logistical, while others relate to your presentation on screen.

Poor lighting, inappropriate backgrounds, and your position in front of the camera, whether it be on a computer, tablet or smartphone, can distract the audience, reducing the power of your messages to the point where they can be lost altogether.

Cannings Purple has prepared government spokespeople, chief executives, board directors and senior managers in public and private companies to face the media, helping them engage effectively, while also contributing to better internal communications abilities, with video as a key communication tool for their internal teams.

The new channels of the virtual world require new skills to achieve these outcomes. And these skills require specific training and practice. As we head into our winter of discontent, Cannings Purple has built special virtual training into its media training modules to prepare for the new world.

We will eventually emerge from the restrictions of COVID-19. But we will emerge into an entirely new world, especially in communications and the media.

By necessity, COVID-19 has demonstrated that it is still possible to gather the news and reach audiences of all demographics quickly and effectively at reduced costs. A big part of the cost reduction comes from how journalists engage. Skype and other channels have shown how that can be done.

It is unlikely that news organisations, already under significant cost pressures before COVID-19, will return completely to the previous ways.

For business and government leaders performing well in the new virtual world is not the future; it is now.

Ray Jordan is one of WA’s most highly regarded corporate communicators and strategists and an expert in media and presentation training. Contact Ray.

If you would like to know more about Cannings Purple’s suite of media training products, contact Dane Chandler.

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Main image by Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash