MAJ Raja Chari says:
As it turns out, skillfully working with the media can actually do a lot of good. Imagine a situation where your troops have mistakenly killed a small boy in a foreign country and you have to explain it. Not realistic, you say. Well, what about the current press interviews of U.S. leaders trying to explain what happened when a soldier allegedly massacred villagers in Afghanistan?
My experience with the media had left me skeptical and skittish about interacting with them, but Advanced Media Training provided some near-real-world experience to reverse those reservations. The training provided in CGSC class as part of the standard C100 syllabus was good, but AMT provided much more extensive practical experience.
The lab training itself consisted of three mock interviews: a remote interview, a press conference, and a talk-show type setting. Besides the general lessons regarding interview prep, command messaging, and communications skills, actually executing the forms of interviews provided me a number of anecdotal lessons-learned that I would never have thought of until doing the real thing.
For example, some of the practical tricks of the trade I would have never anticipated were: 1) how bright the studio lights are and how long it takes your eyes to adjust so you’re not squinting; 2) doing concise mic checks and not getting lulled into thinking that chitchat conversation isn’t being recorded; and 3) asking the reporter to see/read the direct quotes they plan on airing/writing in context.
In the end, I realized that not only will dealing with the media be inevitable in my future, but that I should actually seek it out to try to communicate a strategic communications message. The reality is that journalists are like soldiers in that they’ve got a job to do, and they’ll figure out a way to get it done. If the military is not willing to provide them with information or talk to them about a negative story, they’ll look for alternative sources. Often times those will turn out to be much more damaging. Using the media is just one more aspect of soft power that the military officer needs to be proficient in employing.
MAJ Raja Chari, USAF
ILE 12-02, Staff Group 3A