MARKET FOCUS: MEDIA TRAINING - Media training, anyone? It's asideshow to media relations, but it's quite a show. Craig McGuirereports

For as long as the US has had an effective media, there has been a

need for media training. But while the PR industry as a whole has

enjoyed a huge and widely recognized growth spurt, the revolution in the

media training business has gone largely unrecognized.

There are many reasons for its relative anonymity. First, there are no

national media relations training companies, and the small one-man

operations don't have the size or scope to make a splash. Second, media

training is playing second string to the overall media relations

business at agencies.

And, for clients, media training has typically been an annual or even

one-time expenditure - and something that they are even loath to


T.J. Walker, a New York-based media training specialist, believes the

word "training" is itself off-putting. "Particularly at the C-level,

they see 'training' as an insult to their experience and seniority. I

prefer to use the word 'rehearsal.' When I point out that Broadway stars

rehearse, they start listening."

Yet, media training is more in demand than ever before. The growth is

linked to the same issues that fueled the PR revolution: the explosion

of TV, radio and print-based business journalism; a greater awareness of

reputation issues; and unprecedented global mergers and


"Directors take us all over the world to make sure their spokespeople

are singing from the same hymn book," says Anne Ready, president and CEO

of Ready for Media. "This month alone we'll head to Tokyo, Hong Kong and

then throughout Europe for a client."

And now there's new media, which is redefining the business for


"For instance, rock stars are being shipped in droves to media

trainers," Ready reports. "With all the digital cameras out there, they

have to be prepared for impromptu interviews that will be thrown on the

Web instantaneously."

Expanding brief

Just as PR is expanding, so is media training. "From a CEO's vantage

point, media training can mean anything from a five-minute conversation,

to a three-paragraph e-mail, to a seven-hour dress rehearsal," says Joel

Drucker, an Oakland-based independent communications trainer. "So while

80% of CEOs say media training is useful, that's misleading. There's

really no harmony to media training as a PR sector because it involves

so many applications."

"Presentation training, whether it's for an analyst meeting or up on

Capitol Hill, is taking media training as a discipline to the next

level," points out Michael Kempner, president and CEO of The MWW Group.

"People are also doing more combined media presentations."

Independents versus agencies

There are literally thousands of independents across the country, and

the increased need for media training (plus recent layoffs at some

network stations) has led to their proliferation. These hired guns range

from 20-year veterans to moonlighting reporters.

A number of agencies also have specialist media training units and all

report an increase in demand over the last few years. At

Burson-Marsteller, Anne Strianese, EVP and managing director of media

training, has a team of 14 and has seen the number of training clients

increase from 167 in 1997 to 440 in 2000, a 163% increase. She estimates

680 clients in 2001.

Hill & Knowlton has possibly the largest media training unit in the


Including recent additions from the acquisition of regional companies

like The Rockey Group and Socket, the team is now 40 strong and US

director Derwin Johnson reports that training revenues are up 35% in New

York so far this year, and are 40% over budget for 2001.

Strianese puts Burson's growth down to hard work ("we're available 24/7

as clients now demand"), but she also acknowledges macro factors at


"Over the past decade, more companies have recognized the need for media

training of their own executives and third party spokespersons

(physicians, celebrities, etc.)."

Even the near-mythical C-level client is on the rise. The number of CEOs

coming for training increased by 168%, Strianese reports, from 37 in

1998 to 98 in 2000. "There's an increased awareness of the link between

the CEO's performance as a presenter and the reputation of the company.

Now, instead of a one-off program, we find they're coming back for


Strianese also believes the popularity of Webcast press conferences has

helped spur media training. Burson has developed a special Webcasting

training session that combines training for media, satellite interviews

and presentation skills.

Both H&K and Edelman acknowledge that they now scout for business

independent of the media relations department. "A good media training

unit can really crack open new business," explains Jeff Ansell,

president of Jeff Ansell & Associates in Toronto and a former journalist

who has spent time as an SVP at H&K.


Many agencies use independents under their own banner either to bolster

their own operation or to obviate the need for their own studios. "Being

on a project basis, as opposed to retainer, you don't have to worry if

the CEO likes the trainer, and don't have to 'yes' them to death to

protect the status of the overall account," says Joyce Newman, head of

The Newman Group, a New York-based independent.

Debbie Wetherhead spent 15 years cutting her teeth as a media trainer at

agencies like Ketchum, Cone & Wolf and H&K. Even after she left Ketchum,

she spent two years serving as a back-up trainer for the agency.

As an independent, she still augments her income by acting as a back up

for two Atlanta-based agencies: Duffey Communications and ABOVO


"I come in under their flagship as media trainer and work with the

account rep to customize the program," she explains.

Many national firms are hampered by an "hourly billing mentality,'

claims Ansell. "I recently had lunch with an agency media trainer who's

under pressure to bill 100 hours a month at dollars 280 an hour," he

says. "They expect him to bring in dollars 28k a month, but it just

doesn't work under that model."


Most agency fees range from dollars 2,500 to dollars 10,000 for the

first person trained (on a half-day or day rate basis). Lesser fees are

charged per additional employee trained. Many media training programs

are part of an overall account relationship, so prices are sometimes

discounted. Independents usually charge less, as they seek to build and

retain client rosters. They also don't have the same overheads.

Sometimes travel and research is built into the price. At Burson it's

only extra if the training takes place in a city where they don't have

an office, while Edelman has a roadshow bus. But many of the

independents retain their price advantage precisely because they are


However, several independents report that they travel. Steve Dunlop, CEO

of Dunlop Media, says referrals come from everywhere. "We started out

only in New York. Now we get calls to do training around the country and

globally." Ansell adds that he gets a lot of business throughout the

states as well.

"The media training business is primarily made up of boutique firms,"

adds Jon Rosen, president of Impact Communications. "Geography doesn't

really play a part because the practice is so highly specialized. If

someone has great credentials, they can deal with any medium and any


Ansell agrees that it's specialized. "There's no one size fits all. You

need to go for the best in the area in which you specialize, whether

it's crisis or product launch or pharmaceutical." Indeed, Edelman's

media training unit is seeking to gain an advantage by bringing

specialists aboard. "We just got an expert on dieting whom we now market

to healthcare clients," explains Ann Koepel, manager of media


Sourcing a media alternative

But specialization makes it increasingly hard to find trainers. There

are three main sources:

First, look to your own agency. If it doesn't have an in-house

specialist, it usually has a relationship with a local or specialist


Second, advertising in the directory section of PRWeek and other trade

directories (such as the PRSA Green Book) is also a good starting


Third, and most vital, is word of mouth. "Get a personal referral from a

client who has a long history of success," says Rosen. "Ask the media

trainer to submit a list of references. Or find someone you trust and

respect and ask who they use. If you call four or five people and the

same name keeps coming up, you've probably hit the jackpot."

Rosen, a former journalist, believes that former poachers are the ideal

gamekeepers. "It's important to make sure a media trainer understands

your business or can learn it quickly," he says. "I got a call once to

do media training for radio pharmaceuticals," he recalls. "I could

barely spell it, and I certainly had to find out a lot about it. You

have to hire somebody who understands how to find out what they don't


But there's more to it than just journalism experience. "Make sure the

trainer has a history as a media trainer, client lists and the ability

to establish rapport with a client on all levels - from the CEO down,"

Rosen adds.

Jim Cameron, president of Cameron Communications, is concerned about the

lack of quality and standards in media training. Winner of a Peabody

award at NBC News, and recently marking his 20th year as a media

trainer, Cameron says: "Unfortunately, a number of media trainers are

just unemployed journalists flipping back and forth. Talk about

conflicts of interest! I even see, though more so overseas, reporters

moonlighting as media trainers."

There is no shortage of horror stories. Dunlop recalls at a recent

training seminar in the Midwest, how "one man raised his hand and asked,

'Our last trainer told us the best way to take control during an

interview is to grab the mike out of the reporter's hand and talk

directly into the camera.

Is that true?' Obviously, that's not true, but he asked me with a

straight face."

Still, ignorance can be bliss for media training experts. "I don't think

a day passes when I don't hear on the radio, see on TV or read in a

newspaper a really poor interview by a CEO or company spokesperson,"

says Andy Bowen, VP of Fletcher Martin Ewing Public Relations. "So, as

long as they keep pummeling their reputations, we'll be there to help

increase their quotable quotients."



Jeff Ansell & Assoc/ Jeff Ansell Toronto, Canada


Cameron Communications/ Jim Cameron Darien, CT


Dunlop Media/ Steve Dunlop New York, NY


Joel Drucker/ Joel Drucker Oakland, CA


Karen Friedman Karen Friedman Blue Bell, PA



Impact Communications Jon Rosen New York, NY


Mitchell Friedman/ Mitchell Friedman San Francisco, CA



The Media Relations Michael Owen Schwager Fort Lauderdale, FL


The Newman Group/ Joyce Newman New York, NY


The Publicity Hound/ Joan Stewart Saukville, WI


Ready for Media/ Anne Ready Santa Monica, CA


Spaeth Communications/ Emily Rockenstein Dallas, TX


T.J. Walker/ T.J. Walker New York, NY


Wetherhead Debbie Wetherhead Marietta, GA



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