Media relations is a skill that can make or break a horse trainer’s career. Most interactions with the media are positive. When you’ve won a major competition or celebrated an accomplishment, you’ll likely be interviewed. There are times the media might ask you to be a source for a story based on your training and management topics. These are opportunities to share your story, promote your business and create a positive atmosphere for the larger industry.
In addition to being prepared to talk about your business and your clients, take time to research what is being said about the industry. Be aware of disputed topics and consider how to respond if contacted for an interview since those topics might come up.
You might have been named the Trainer of the Year in your sport, and a reporter might call to interview you about that award. Then he or she might ask you about the issue of horse slaughter or drugging of show or race horses.
Here are three tips that will help you ace your next interview for a print publication.
1. Prepare a list of talking points
Talking points are a list of ideas and easy-to-recall phrases on a topic. Crafting talking points helps you collect your thoughts and have a consistent response in interviews. It’s not a document that is provided to the media, it’s something you or others in your stable would use to mentally prepare for an interview.
Talking points help you collect your thoughts. Adrenaline and the heat of the moment can make celebratory media interactions nerve-wracking. Before heading to an event where you know media will be interviewing winners or asking participants for comments, take the time to think about how you would like to respond. Planning the message you’d like to get out about your business, your horses and the show can make the experience less overwhelming.
2. Build relationships with reporters.
Establishing good relationships with the media before being asked to respond to a sensitive issue is impactful. Develop a reputation for being a reliable and reputable source so that when a contentious topic is brought to the media’s attention, they come to you for a sound counterpoint. When the media comes to you in good times or bad, respect their time and deadlines. Return their phone calls in a timely manner.
3. Practice makes perfect.
The more often you interact with the media the more comfortable you will become. Ask a trusted advisor to ask you impromptu questions about your business or industry topics. This will give you a chance to practice responding to questions. Don’t pass on opportunities to respond to what seems like an easy interview. These experiences give you a chance to hone your skills.