’What is media training?’ After years of serving as a trainer, I am still surprised by the number of times I hear that question, often from those within the PR community. In fact, I have now given up telling people I specialize in communications training. Instead, I let them know it’s my job to keep people out of trouble in the newspapers.
’What is media training?’ After years of serving as a trainer, I am
still surprised by the number of times I hear that question, often from
those within the PR community. In fact, I have now given up telling
people I specialize in communications training. Instead, I let them know
it’s my job to keep people out of trouble in the newspapers.
That is a good working definition, for media training is at its peak
effectiveness before misfortune arrives. Training is mandatory when
crisis strikes. But I’ll take preventive medicine over a painful and
expensive cure any day. Media training prepares you to win when you deal
There are two common elements to each session. The first spotlights
message development. It is important that clients develop a clear
message. The second element is experiential. You practice in the
security of your training environment situations you will encounter in
the real world. For example, if you will be facing TV interviews, you’ll
go before the camera.
No two training sessions are exactly alike, so over the years I have
formulated dozens of exercises and dialogues, for what is appropriate
for one client may not suit the next.
Another logical question: who benefits from media training? First, there
is your management team - your face before the public. If you train
management, they will be able to sharpen to a fine point the messages
they need to deliver to consumers, industry analysts, opinion leaders,
investors and others; understand the discipline necessary to deliver
those messages consistently over time; receive a dose of confidence that
allows them to perform in any public setting; and gain insights into the
media that give them a better understanding of the rules of the
Your organization benefits from media training in the following ways: it
aligns your messages so that all your spokespeople are reading from the
same page; positions your organization as a leader in your industry or
issue area; and paints a consistent picture of your distinct brand.
There is one other series of benefits that is critical - the benefits
earned by the PR professional who hires an outside media trainer. It
solidifies your value and expertise in the eyes of senior management,
lends a fresh set of eyes and ears to assess what needs fine tuning and
delivers frank advice you cannot politically deliver to your CEO
(assuming you want a job to come back to the next morning).
Keeping people out of trouble in the newspapers - I think I’ll hang on
to that line.
It truly is the essence of media training.
- Ed Barks is president of Barks Communications, a Virgina-based media