5 Reasons You Need Media Training
I admit I’m biased. I do media training as part of my living, so when I explain to groups why they should do media training, it seems a little self-serving. It’s like doctors telling you to have an annual check-up, or tire companies extolling the virtues of winter tires. However since they both tell you to watch you health and the rubber on your vehicle, I will tell you why you need media training.
The answers may surprise you. They have very little to do with being able to answer questions from the media correctly. Here are my top five reasons for your organization to commit to media training.
1. Brand Protection and Enhancement
I don’t think there has ever been a time that it’s been more difficult to protect personal and corporate brands. We have seen a load of stories that have got into the media and then gone viral on social media, or have made the rounds on social media before getting into traditional media and making it big there. Add to this “citizen journalists” who have phones that take photos and shoot video and can post it on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube in seconds. One wrong move by one of your employees or co-workers can result in the media asking questions. Doesn’t it make sense to be prepared to speak to the media if the time comes?
I’ve done media training a couple of times in the past few years for an Alberta construction company. It’s a great company that’s done incredibly well and is concerned about its image, as every company should be. In the past two months I’ve been contacted twice by representatives for this company after a couple of incidents have occurred onsite. In the first, a worker for one of the trades companies they hired committed suicide on the job and in the other one of their projects under construction was destroyed by fire. They wanted to make sure if the media called that they had their key messages prepared. We talked, they were in good shape and everything went well. That shows you what can happen to any company today. Through no fault of their own they had two potential media stories on their hands, but to their credit they were prepared when both happened. Remember, you can’t always control things that happen to you, but you can control your reaction to them.
Here’s the other thing that’s important – it’s just not damage control. These days there are far fewer journalists than there were a decade ago. The big newspapers have merged and are sharing reporters, few radio stations do much news anymore and have cut staff and TV newsrooms have been giving people packages to leave. There aren’t as many reporters and as a result when you do have a story that you want to get into the media it’s more difficult to do. It’s important to not only know how to get that story into the media, but also have the people ready to talk when you do get the chance to speak.
2. Improved Communications
I remember a media training session I did about three years ago. A young woman at the end of the day said something along the lines of “Because of the other spokespeople we have who have more experience than me, I may never speak to the media, but I can use these techniques to speak to members of the public who call every day.”
My first response wasn’t very positive. After all I had just finished a media training course and spent a lot of time preparing for it. But then I thought about what she said and realized she was bang on. Many of the tips I provide about speaking to the news media can be used in conversations with clients, co-workers and others. In fact, when I deliver my Talk Like a Leader keynote presentation or workshop, I borrow some of the media training techniques that I’ve been using for years.
The simple fact is good communication is good communication regardless of whether you’re speaking to the news media, a customer or your spouse. You have to know what you’re going to say before you say it. You can prepare in a similar fashion because you want the same outcome.
3. Team Building
At the start of my media training sessions I let participants know they're in for a lot of fun. Most don't believe me and understandably so. How can being forced to stand in front of a camera and do an interview (something many people haven’t done before) be a lot of fun?
Strangely though it is. Everybody taking the training is faced by the same challenge – being able to effectively answer questions from me as I play the big bad reporter. I normally do two rounds of interviews. In the first round everyone gets an easy interview with softball questions, but the second round becomes much more difficult as I’m confrontational, challenging and difficult to deal with. I remind everyone to stand their ground and give me the same answers as they did the first time regardless of my attitude. Most people do a better interview the second time than the first regardless of my behaviour.
4. Value for Volunteers
I work with a lot of not-for-profit Boards and volunteer-based organizations. Many of those volunteers tell me that the media training gives them something in return for their involvement. I remember one Board member telling me "I've been a part of this Board for eight years and this is the first time I believe they did something for me.”
I thought about that statement and found it to be really interesting. As a person who ran a large not-for-profit organization for 12 years, I knew what we was talking about. Volunteers are asked to do a lot. The good ones as asked to do even more, but rarely are they given personal development training. That’s something typically left for the company they work for because associations don’t have very large training budgets and simply put, it’s not what they do. They try to use the strength of their paid staff members and volunteers to do the best work possible for the membership. Giving formal training for volunteers isn’t part of that mandate. There’s no question volunteers learn on the job, but training isn’t normally part of the equation.
5. Learning a New Skill
Understanding how to figure out what to say to the news media and figuring out how to say it isn’t something that most people would put on their training list at the start of the year. It won’t rate of there with leadership or sales training, but media training is something that can sharpen your leadership skills. It’s typically leaders who do speak to the media and some of them don’t do a very good job.
Learning any new skill can be beneficial. Obviously if the day does come that you need to speak to the media on behalf of your voluntary position or your 9-5 job then you have the knowledge and some experience to do so. Understanding how to speak to the media and communicate better can be the difference in getting a promotion or staying where you are. Even if you don’t speak to the media, it’s a skill you’ve learned and it’s one that not many others have.
I am just putting the final edits to a full online media training series that I will be launching a week from today and I wanted those following my blog to be the first to know about it. It’s a five-part video series and I’ll be providing full details next week on where I got the idea from and the work done to put it together. It will be the first time I will have a product that I can offer to individual people who want media training and it also gives me the opportunity to offer my training around the world. I’m excited about it and I’ll have full details for you next week.