Media training is a hot market - one that agencies large and small, as well as independent contractors, are eager to get a piece of.
Media training is a hot market - one that agencies large and small,
as well as independent contractors, are eager to get a piece of.
With many new companies using the media to establish credibility, media
training has become a necessity. It’s also not just for CEOs - everyone
from lawyers, entertainers and scientists to the Pets.com Sock Puppet
(see sidebar) have seen the value of media training. This has meant that
many agencies and independent trainers’ businesses are growing
For example, Burson-Marsteller quadrupled its media training revenues in
the past two years, The Hemingway Media Group doubled its revenues in
the past year and Reputation Management Associates, which had a quarter
million dollars in training revenue last year, predicts that its
revenues will double this year.
One reason for the increasing popularity of media training, according to
Bill Patterson, president of Reputation Management Associates in
Columbus, OH, is the proliferation of media outlets, which have provided
more opportunities for corporate spokespeople to do interviews.
’A lot has to do with the dot-coms, which are driving much of the
economy at this point,’ adds Carole Hemingway, president of the Beverly
Hills, CA-based Hemingway Media Group. ’Their business is done so much
through the media.’ In addition, Hemingway says that because many new
executives are attending meetings with venture capitalists and speaking
on panels, they need more training.
Clients have changed the way they use media training, from a defensive
technique for dealing with a crisis, for example, to a proactive way to
pump up financials, says Joel Drucker, a solo pro who has been running
his own business in Oakland for seven years.
How it’s done
While the importance of media training seems evident, trainers have
different ideas about how sessions should be conducted. Some larger
agencies, including Ketchum and Burson, build media training into
clients’ overall PR plans. Burson and Ketchum both have Today-show-like
studio sets to prepare clients for interviews.
Both agencies also have trainers in a number of locations, including New
York, DC, Chicago and the West Coast, as well as in cities abroad.
Ketchum has several full-time trainers and freelancers, while the
majority of Burson’s 10 North American trainers have other
responsibilities. Anne Strianese, Burson managing director and EVP, says
it’s important to have several trainers, because clients usually want to
book a particular day.
Ketchum does not have a set format for sessions, according to Mary
Tavon, SVP and managing director at the agency’s Communications Training
Trainers generally hold separate sessions for message development and
crisis communications, and once messages are developed, the bulk of the
training consists of role playing and Q & A sessions.
Burson’s sessions focus on message development. Strianese says that
taping practice interviews, which most media trainers do, is an
important part of the process. ’Communications theory tells us that
adults do not learn by sitting and listening,’ says Strianese. ’They
learn by doing.’ Like Ketchum, the agency treats crisis training as a
While larger agencies may have more resources to put into training, some
smaller ones do offer their own programs. In October, Atlanta-based
Fletcher Martin Ewing PR, a nine-person outfit with dollars 1 million in
revenues, formalized its training offerings with a program called The
Message Masters. Socket PR, an Atlanta agency with 45 employees and
dollars 3 million in revenue, offers SocketPR University, a program
developed 12 years ago.
Message Masters sessions, led by Andy Bowen, a Fletcher Martin Ewing VP
and former journalist, and Alicia Thompson, a senior account manager,
cover learning about the media, managing interviews, crisis
communications, dealing with cyber criticism and on-camera
’A major part of the day-long seminar is managing a crisis,’ says
’Every company will have one, and it’s only a matter of time before
something occurs that has the potential to throw you into unwanted
In contrast, SocketPR University does not cover crisis communications,
although agency principal Peter Baron says specialists can be brought in
if necessary. Baron, also a former journalist, conducts the
The first half covers the life of a reporter and what constitutes a good
story; the second part is meant to prepare executives to be quotable
spokespeople by identifying key messages, developing colorful quotes and
In an era of specialization, independent practitioners are also making a
name for themselves as media trainers.
Reputation Management Associates offers a series of courses that build
on each other, beginning with an introduction to the news media.
Hemingway, whose clients have included ABC, Coopers & Lybrand and John
F. Kennedy Jr. (for the launch of George), says she generally begins
sessions by taping clients to get a sense of their style. After taping,
sessions cover sound bites and extracting messages, followed by more
taping to determine how well clients get messages across.
While Jeff Ansell, president of Jeff Ansell & Associates in Toronto,
says he usually operates solo, he also brings in associates for select
assignments. Sessions can last anywhere from two hours to three
Prior to a session, he reviews a client’s press coverage to determine
what issues he is facing.
Drucker says that he tries to find out early on how clients perceive the
media to uncover hidden hostilities. Drucker also encourages clients to
talk to the press about trends, rather than just about their
He even teaches how to deal with tricky questions or silent
Estimates for the percentage of these trainers’ revenue that comes from
outside agencies ranges from Reputation Management’s 15% to Drucker’s
50% to 60%.
Who does it
Regardless of how they conduct training, trainers remain divided on who
should conduct sessions - those with strictly training experience or
those who also have backgrounds in PR or journalism.
According to Drucker, who is also a journalist and has 10 years of
agency experience at Edelman, Burson and Phase Two Strategies, trainers
with PR experience have the best skill set. Strianese says a team of
trainers should have both PR and training experience.
Others insist that a background in news reporting is essential. ’It
takes one to know one,’ says Ansell, a former broadcast reporter who has
also worked at Hill & Knowlton. ’The fact is, former journalists
instinctively know what questions to ask. It’s not a lot of theoretical
yip-yap that folks are often given by media trainers.’
A related issue is whether the client’s account team or an outside
trainer should do the work. While some experts say the outside trainer
is less desirable because the relationship is a temporary one, others
point out that this is not always the case. For example, Patterson has
been working with Ashland Chemical on an ongoing basis and is currently
training three people at each of the company’s plants - down to the
And not being affiliated with an agency has its advantages. Because
agencies may be afraid to be honest with clients, they may be less
demanding than a consultant.
For example, when Hemingway was once training a Fortune 20 CEO - with
his PR pros present - she heard them whisper that the CEO was really in
need of a haircut. ’I approached him and casually brought it up, and
after the lunch break, he came back with his hair cut,’ she says.
’That’s hard to do when it’s an ongoing client.’
AGENCIES AND INDEPENDENTS: THE MEDIA TRAINING BUSINESS
Following are snapshots of media training offerings by agencies and
companies mentioned in the article. (All trainers say that costs can
vary based on the number of participants, and special sessions with
varying lengths and costs can be created.)
Training Sessions: Media Training, Presentation Skills Training,
Communication and Leadership Skills, Specialized Communication Settings,
Communicating Difficult Issues
Cost: dollars 7,500 for a half-day session for up to three people or
dollars 9,500 for a full-day session for up to five people, expenses
included. Can also do special sessions for up to 120 people.
Agency: Fletcher Martin Ewing Public Relations
Training Session: The Message Masters
Cost: dollars 2,000 for a full-day session for up to six participants,
dollars 100 for each additional participant, plus trainers’ expenses.
Also includes five hours of free post-graduation consultation.
Training Sessions: SpeakOut! Media Training, Presenting Success!
Presentation Skills, Executive Coaching, Crisis Media Management
Agency: Socket Public Relations
Training Session: SocketPR University - includes investor presentation
training, media/analyst presentation training, public speaking coaching,
employee communications and public relations education
INDEPENDENT AGENCIES/SOLO PRACTITIONERS
Company: Jeff Ansell & Associates
Training Sessions: MediaStrategies, Quantum Tips, Quantum Speak
Cost: Ranges from a couple thousand dollars to dollars 7,500
Company: The Hemingway Media Group
Training Sessions: Media Training, Crisis Communications
Company: Reputation Management Associates
Training Sessions: Media I - Introduction to the News Media; Media II -
The Advanced Course; Media III - The Graduate Course; the Refresher
Course; Media Awareness Training; Media Workshop
Cost: Full-day sessions (Media I, II and III) cost dollars 4,800,
half-day workshops are dollars 3,200 and rates for shorter sessions vary
from dollars 1,000 to dollars 1,400. Up to eight people can be trained
per session, although any number can attend.
Trainer: Joel Drucker
Training Session: Media training
PETS.COM: BECAUSE PETS CAN TALK
While it may be more standard to train CEOs, in February Carole
Hemingway, president of The Hemingway Media Group, had the unusual
assignment of training the Pets.com Sock Puppet in preparation for a
stint on Good Morning America.
In addition to Hemingway and the Sock Puppet puppeteer, Pets.com PR pro
Melissa Menta, members of advertising agency TBWA/Chiat/Day and former
CNN entertainment reporter Ron Tank were present at the session.
According to Hemingway, the training focused on keeping the Sock Puppet
in character, rather than on message. She says she treated the session
as she would any other by replicating a TV studio set, conducting
on-camera interviews, critiquing and doing more interviews. Hemingway
played the role of Diane Sawyer, while Tank acted as Charles Gibson.
’We didn’t have to worry about what to do with his hands, or about eye
contact,’ jokes Hemingway. And with less focus on messages, all the Sock
Puppet had to do was be charming.
’He was so winning, I was just melting in my seat,’ says Hemingway. ’And
Diane Sawyer was just gone, she just loved the Sock Puppet. It was such
smart marketing for them.’
Following the stint on Good Morning America, the ever-popular Sock
Puppet also made an appearance on Regis & Kathie Lee.