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Preparing for Foreign Media Encounters

by on December 7, 2015
Press_Conference_-_Sunita_Lyn_Williams_-_Science_City_-_Kolkata_2013-04-02_7597.JPG                   Photo: Biswarup Ganguly

By Teresa Erickson

When an organization’s leaders travel to countries with which they are not completely familiar, preparation can make a big difference when it comes to communicating with the public and the media. What are the essentials for that kind of preparation?

1.Draw Your M.A.P: Message, Audience, Proof

What is the main message you want to communicate? Craft this message powerfully and succinctly, so that it will make a good media quote. Share this message early with your translator, to make sure it is as powerful in the local language. They can also help tweak the message (for alliteration or rhyming) if there is a better way to say it. Your goal will be to get this message across in every interview.

What does your audience care about in this country? Why does your work matter to them? For example, if people are worried about unemployment, be ready to explain how your efforts in their country help create jobs. Find ways to relate your issue to the real-life problems of the country. If you are meeting NGOs, trade unions, or local officials, think about what matters to each of these groups and reference those issues when you meet them, so you can come across as knowledgeable.

Find five examples, what we call “proof” illustrating your work in this country. These examples will make your message convincing. Learn the key details and numbers of these examples. (This can include key findings from new reports, or valuable statistics about the nation).

2. Master the Basics. Use the Internet to learn about the Country Profile: offers good general overviews offers quick country profiles, including politics provides detailed economic facts and analyses.
• Search in Twitter the hashtag of the country, for example, #Mongolia, to find out what’s happening NOW.

Know the pronunciation of key names of places and leaders.
Online tools such as and allow you to enter a name and hear its pronunciation.

3. Country Media profile: This will tell you if the media is free, state controlled, hostile or underdeveloped: check out Committee to Protect Journalists: Or Reporters without Borders:

4. Watch the News: Be aware of what’s happening in the country, so you don’t come across as a clueless foreigner. Watch some TV news shows to glean clues about appropriate body language and style for TV interviews: are most guests sitting relaxed on sofas, or upright on stools, do guests tend to talk faster or slower, are the hosts laid back and respectful, or fast-talking and more hostile? Are the interviews more casual, with humorous moments, or more formal and serious?
Link your messages and examples to the country’s “hot” media topics.

• Search in Google or other browser under the news tab for the country and your main topic. For example: Rwanda, “Capital Markets.”
• Search for your organization and the country name. For example: “World Bank” and Brazil.

5. Be ready for tough questions. Identify and prepare for critical questions about your organization, with a web search (not news search), for example: IMF, Greece, Critics; or Oxfam Haiti, Controversy.

Teresa Erickson and Tim Ward are the authors of The Master Communicator’s Handbook


From → Media Expertise

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