Media Training? Communications experts agree, it REALLY IS necessary!
Our recent blog article Media Training: Is that Really Necessary received tremendous feedback. We posed the same “Media Training: Is that really necessary?” question to the LinkedIn Public Relations and Communications Professionals Group. The response – a resounding YES! According to our communications peers, media training is extremely important for more reasons than we could attempt to mention in just one blog post. In fact, nearly every response among the 75+ contributions to the discussion addressed a different perspective, providing an extremely wide range of anecdotes, lessons learned, advice and analogies. Take a look at some of the comments and feel free to share your additional thoughts.
Honing the messaging:
Newsmaker Group’s April 27th blog post entitled Avoid the Bridge to Nowhere – Keep Your Communications Message on Track, talks about the importance of identifying and focusing interviews on key messages to support your strategic positioning and drive your business goals forward. Here are more thoughts on the topic:
- Alison Owen emphasizes the importance of the message, saying that “As the media fragments, confident and engaging media spokespeople are more critical than ever to capture our super-short attention spans …. entering a broadcast interview unprepared and unrehearsed is a high-risk strategy, especially when one ill-advised or off-message comment can go viral and reach millions of people in an instant.”
- Bob Aronson has another interesting idea, saying that messages have to stick: “If you are any good at what you do you will begin by concentrating on the issues and the messages and how to best frame what the client needs to communicate. We can work on style till hell freezes over but if the content is poor you will look like a stylized fool. Participants have to concentrate on what they came to communicate. That should always be the primary focus. If the trainer has not familiarized him/herself with the issues and messages then the client is wasting their money. Knowing how the media work is not enough. Trainers need to understand the basics of persuasive communication and be able to help the client couple them with well-developed, adhesive messages — they’ve got to stick!”
- Martin Riecken has also an interesting point of view, saying that not everything a CEO says is a message and that “being able to form words doesn’t mean one is able to deliver (the right) messages…”
- Hal Hart thinks that “the most important point is to start by focusing the trainee on the subject of the interview.”
Conducting the training
Another important topic discussed in the LinkedIn Group relates to who does the training.
- Bob Aronson made a list of the essential items he is looking for when hiring a media coach: “1) experience as a spokesperson, 2) experience as a journalist, 3) a demonstrated knowledge of communication principles including persuasion and listening skills, 4) the ability to teach, to help people learn, 5) a solid understanding of business … and the responsibilities faced by the executives we counsel, and 6) capable researcher with a commitment to preparation.”
- Barbara Laskin (a fabulous media trainer our team has worked with by the way) thinks that “an expert media trainer brings something to the table that both these entities (executives and their PR reps) can’t: an outside point-of-view. He or she shines a critical lens that exposes how others perceive you, not just how you or your team perceive yourself.”
Convincing the client!
And finally, the LinkedIn discussion also shed more light on the ways to get a spokesperson to respect the media training process. We very much enjoyed the colorful analogies respondents provided to reinforce this, ranging from brain surgery, to blazing infernos, to a concert hall pianist!
- Leeland K. Bassett said that “We ask clients if they would let an amateur do brain surgery on their kid? Recognize that earned media is called that because you have to earn it. And do you want to walk into the arena with seasoned pros as an amateur?”
- Richard McKeown believes “Media Training is like a smoke detector: its cost relative to a raging fire is a pittance. And its value in preventing a full-blown inferno is immeasurable. It sounds self-serving, but it’s true: Media Training should be a requirement for not only spokespersons, but all who is part of an executive leadership team in all organizations, large or small.”
- Carmie McCook often told her clients “If you needed life-saving surgery, would you operate on yourself? Every client I’ve worked with has thanked me for “saving” their life.”
- Bob Dirkes explains that media coaching should take place on a continuing basis, similar to the greatest athletes who do not stop practicing their skills once they go pro.
- Martin Riecken considers that one would not dive into a pool without knowing how to swim, or perform at Carnegie Hall’s piano concert series without ever having touched a key before. So why would one believe that he can do a media interview without preparation?
This being said, let’s get the media training started and keep it going!