MARKET FOCUS: MEDIA TRAINING - The media training mavens. As media outlets continue to expand, the business of media training grows with it. But as Rebecca Flass finds out, there’s more than one way to sell this service

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.

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 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

separate session.

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

videotaping role-playing.

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

plant manager.

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.’


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.)


Agency: Burson-Marsteller

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.

Agency: Ketchum

Training Sessions: SpeakOut! Media Training, Presenting Success!

Presentation Skills, Executive Coaching, Crisis Media Management

Cost: Undisclosed

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

Cost: Undisclosed


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

Cost: Undisclosed

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

Cost: Undisclosed


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 Sock Puppet in preparation for a

stint on Good Morning America.

In addition to Hemingway and the Sock Puppet puppeteer, 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.

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