Session III: Richmond, VFBF Media Training

On January 9th, VALOR fellows traveled to the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation (VFBF) headquarters in Richmond to participate in media training with Norm Hyde and Kathy Dixon. Kathy gave us an informative presentation about “Putting the ‘Me’ in Media” and how to best formulate and deliver the message we wish to convey in any media atmosphere. She shared with us the example of setting up a Message House: create a headline point (roof) supported by by three supporting points (pillars/walls). We were each given a few minutes to think about a topic to share that we were passionate about and to jot down our thoughts in our Message House.

staircase in VFBF headquarters

Norm, an award-winning, professional radio, television and web video writer with VFBF took these ideas from our Message House activity and put us in front of the camera! He gave us pointers on how to stand, what to wear, what to avoid saying (filler words, run on sentences, etc.) and how to convey our message best to keep our reporter on ‘our topic’. Media is fast paced, especially in TV, and from a five-minute interview, or longer, a reporter has to clip it to a minute or even less. Sometimes what is aired may or may not be  what the interviewee expects, for many reasons. Something important to the interviewee may not come across as important to the interviewer/reporter due to their lack of knowledge on the subject or lack of time to prepare or the time slot allowed for the piece.

Each of the VALOR fellows had a chance in front of the camera; some more in their ‘element’ than others. Norm asked the hard questions, too. Norm and Kathy’s suggestions for best practices with media included providing a fact sheet upon arrival or prior to the interview. Another key to a successful interview is to state up front what you can/can’t talk about. During the interview, its up to the interviewee to “keep the upper hand” (Stay in your Message House).

We had a special guest stop in to visit the VALOR cohort while working on our interviews: Mr. Wayne Pryor, Virginia Farm Bureau President came by to say a quick thank you and congratulate the group as well as to welcome us to Richmond (and to join Farm Bureau if we weren’t already members!). We knew it was precious time out of his schedule as in the coming days he, along with other VA Farm Bureau delegates including our own VALOR fellow Amy Gail Fannon, would travel to New Orleans for the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention.

While conducting interviews in front of the group, fellows had a chance to critique each of the ‘spots’ from a projected image. Nothing like being in the spotlight! We were able to give and receive valuable feedback to each person.

A visit from W. Pryor, VFBF President and fellow interviews with N. Hyde.

Norm’s points for successful social media “sells” were: (1) make it funny, (2) make it cute – everybody loves cute -, and (3) make it pretty. He also gave us helpful tips in use of our smartphones; ‘selfie distance’ is ideal, always ‘shoot’ in landscape, when possible use a mic (to which he showed an inexpensive model we could purchase from Amazon!)

Norm stated “video without audio is a slideshow” and “audio without video is radio”. So all components of a social media, and TV post are important.

A crucial takeaway point shared by both speakers in our day-long media training was “why”. As agricultural advocates, we know the in’s and out’s of our industry and can spew facts and figures upon command, but if we can’t connect with the “non-Ag” audience (the other 98.5%), our message falls on deaf ears, so to speak. We need to be able to answer the “why should I care?” question. Even in perfect light, use of the right equipment and all talking points on topic, if we can’t answer  that questions, we might as well stay home!

a view from the window of VFBF headquarters, in front of the staircase.

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