Here's Janet's interview with the London School of PR Blog in Sofia about a new training course Barrie Media starts this Autumn. We'll be looking at the power of the international media and how Bulgarian businesses can do more to make the most of it!

International Media, Video Content and Reputation Management

On 1 October starts the new education in “PR & Reputation Management” at the London School of PR in Bulgaria. The course programme this year includes a new module "International Media and Video Content", led by Janet Barrie, a seasoned journalist, correspondent around the world and BBC News presenter.

What is media training, and why does it matter?

Simply put - media training is showing businesses how to take the power of the international media and put it to work to their advantage. Even a humble local radio interview could connect you to more people than you will ever manage to meet in your life. Imagine what a favourable mention for a business in an international newspaper or broadcaster that reaches millions could do? There’s nothing quite like mass media coverage to raise profile and improve reputation. But it works both ways! An interview with a journalist from an international media outlet can be an amazing opportunity, but it carries a big risk too. Reputations can, and have, been torn to shreds through misunderstanding the way the media work, and from bad planning. And that’s why it’s so important your spokespeople are thoroughly prepared for any encounter with the media! Media opportunities can be planned, but very often they also happen without warning - when crisis strikes, and the stakes are particularly high.

Who are you? What’s your background?

I spent twenty years at BBC News - as a foreign correspondent, and a radio and TV presenter. I worked for many years in Brussels, Berlin and London, reporting from dozens of countries across Europe, as well as the Middle East and Afghanistan. I’ve done many hundreds of interviews on location and in the studio - with politicians, business people and celebrities. I know what works for the international media, and crucially what doesn’t! I still do some journalistic work, but focus now more on helping organisations present themselves well to an international audience, and that includes making the most of every bit of media coverage they can get. I have a communications agency, Barrie Media,, which I run with my Bulgarian partner. We take a special interest in helping Bulgarians promote themselves abroad.

How have new ways of communication changed things for local and international businesses?

It’s a radically different world from the one it was even ten or fifteen years ago! Crucially, I’d say, the biggest difference social media makes for businesses is a loss of control over how the public sees them. You can hold your AGM behind closed doors, but can you really stop every one of your thousands of shareholders there from filming something on their phones, and putting it up on YouTube? And it’s an amazing globalised world - an unguarded comment on Facebook in Bulgaria can find its way around the globe in minutes, and cause huge damage to a business’s reputation. It’s so important for business leaders now to be consistent and clear in what they say, and realise nothing’s ever truly “off the record”.

Why do media interviews and professional video material matter? Why and how should managers prepare for them?

Social media has become such an important way to communicate that it’s easy sometimes for businesses to overlook the power of the old-fashioned mainstream media. There’s so much to be said though, for the endorsement of trusted international names - to get mentioned in the New York Times, or the BBC, or Der Spiegel is still a special, powerful thing - and you need to get interviews with tough, international journalists right to get the coverage you want! Preparation is key - what are you going to say, and how are you going to say it? What is the journalist likely to ask you? And that preparation includes proper professional support from people who understand the international media. The themes and messages and stories that work for your local audience are unlikely to appeal to someone half a continent away.
These are exciting times for communicators. We can still embrace the power of the traditional media, but businesses also have so much flexibility to produce their own content, manage their own channels, and reach their audience directly. It’s so important here though, that businesses understand the importance of good content - including good video. It’s never been easier to film and edit video, or to write on a blog, but there is a lot of bad content out there - and that’s never going to be a good thing for a business to be associated with. Professionalism is key - a useful video isn’t just one that looks pretty - it needs to have a strong message too!

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