Media training: you know what you mean, but will I?

Media training twice last week was a treat. The best sessions always throw out something new and this was no exception.

I asked one of the delegates what he did. He said he was the head of SE for his business. That’s interesting, I said. What areas in the South East specifically?

He and his colleagues roared with laughter. They thought I was joking. SE meant sales engineering, and he was in charge of Europe plus bits of Africa. I’d been about to ask him about his prospects in East Grinstead.

The point is, I wasn’t joking. When I hear SE I think “South East” as a reflex.

Media Training for comprehension

This is why I always encourage people to take any jargon they may have in their interviews out and shoot it. SE isn’t the only example. A couple of years ago I was in a proper interview, all grown up. There was a PR person, the director at their client and someone they introduced as one of their “SMEs”.

OK, I thought, small to medium business, this is good, he’ll be here because he’s used the service. So I started by asking what he did for a living. He looked puzzled, shrugged and said he was one of the company’s SMEs. Yes, I said, but what do you actually do?

After a while it emerged that SME in this case meant “subject matter expert”, he worked for the PR company as an expert witness might work for a court.

There are probably plenty more of these and the difficulty is that when you’re at work, you probably use them without a thought. They’re common parlance. If you’re talking to a journalist, however, be very clear and spell out any acronyms, or better still don’t use them.

The exception is when you’re writing something and want to make a point. I was once writing a white paper for a client and they asked for a glossary. I put as the heading: “Why TLAs cause confusion”, and the sub-editor insisted I spelled TLAs (three letter acronyms) out. It made sense but it sort of filleted the headline.

Do you need help with your interview techniques in front of the media? I have decades of experience – contact me by emailing

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