How to Find the Best Media Training
Your organization has decided it needs to do media training for its leadership and it's your job to find a media trainer. Where do you start? It's hard to figure out who's good and who isn't and more importantly, who's the best fit for you and your organization.
There are some basic rules to follow. Start with a Google search for media trainers, look at what they offer get it down to a short list and go from there. Sounds easy, but there are several good media trainers in every large city in Canada.
If you're still struggling, (without trying to sound too self-serving because I do this for a living) here's some inside information on the best way to hire a media trainer.
What's Their News Media Experience?
The first thing to look for in any media trainer is actual media experience. I look at it this way - If somebody was going to train me to operate on someone, I’d like to learn from somebody who’s done it and not just talked about it.
Understanding how the media works and how it approaches interviews is critical to the success of anyone giving the interview. You can’t really understand that unless you’ve walked a few miles in a reporter’s shoes.
I call it the rules of media engagement. It’s an understanding of how the media works and how reporters think and operate, critically important in any media strategy.
This is not to say that having a communications degree from a university or technical school, or years of working as a political aide aren’t important. They are. However, there’s no substitute for actual media experience.
PR Agency vs. Media Training Sole Proprietor
There are really two types of media training companies. You can either hire an agency to supply a media trainer, or hire a media trainer directly who works for him or herself.
There’s no right or wrong answer. An agency can provide more shared knowledge and credibility than somebody who’s flying solo as a trainer. Be careful however, who the agency is providing. It may have several people who do media training and it will line you up with a trainer, trying to provide a good fit. But you know not all trainers are created equally and some are better than others. It’s hard to know if you’re getting the agency’s best or most inexperienced media trainer, so ask questions.
Testimonials and References for the Media Trainer
No media trainer or agency should have a problem giving you a list of people who can provide references, but you don’t always need to ask for a list. Just check their website.
Many websites today contain testimonials, a client list, or both. I think the most transparent way to provide information to potential clients is to list testimonials with the person’s name and position. Anyone who agrees to provide a testimonial that a media trainer can use on something as public as a website should have no problem taking a call from a potential client and providing an honest assessment. This is why testimonials on websites are better in my opinion than a client list. That’s because if you want to find out what kind of a job a trainer did for a large organization, good luck in getting to the right person to ask without a lot of digging.
Get It In Writing
Any media trainer shouldn’t have a problem giving you a complete written proposal, detailing what’s included in the training session, including extras like copies of books or handouts and of course the price. If a problem occurs during the session you can always use the proposal to go back to the trainer and have an honest discussion.
It’s also a very good idea for the trainer to provide a contract detailing what will be provided, the cost and what happens if one side or the other needs to change the date of the training, should something unforeseen happen.
Will the Media Trainer Customize?
Media trainers are like everyone else - they find a system that works and they stick to it. But that system may not work for you. You may want some changes in the way interviews are done, or perhaps you need a portion of the day to focus on a key spokesperson, such as your CEO.
The trainer should have no problem charging their approach to fit. Remember you’re paying for their time and doing a portion of the day’s training session in a different way shouldn’t be a problem for them. You’re the client, so make sure the trainer will cover your needs.
Do They Have a Strong Internet Presence?
Check the media trainer’s website and see how much you’re able to find out about them and their work. I would rather have a media trainer providing a lot of information on their website to show that they know what they’re talking about instead of the trainer talking about him or herself and their accomplishments.
Do they provide free content in social media, as they offer to share what they know to others, or do they keep a low social media profile?
Media Training Extras
All trainers offer training sessions that usually last a half or full day, or perhaps two or three days. But what else do they offer? Does each person taking the training receive a book written by the trainer? Are video copies of all on-camera interviews made available by the trainer at the end of the session, or will there be an addition fee for the videos?
All extras should clearly be listed in the contract, turning that document into a checklist to make sure you’ve received everything they were supposed to get.
The Price Isn't Always Right
While price is always an important factor, especially for non-for-profits with smaller budgets, try to think about the value you get from a media trainer and not just how much it costs. Media training not only gets your people prepared to speak to the news media, but it can help with their communication skills, serves as a good team-building exercise and provides an important payback to your volunteers for providing their time and expertise.
Before hiring a trainer you should have had a chance to communicate with them by email and over the phone and ask yourself who your first choice would be regardless of price. If the trainer you like carries a higher price tag, look to see if there are differences in what they provide to make up for the difference. Perhaps they have more experience, or include more takeaway material. If you can’t find differences, take another look at your short list.
More Thoughts on Hiring a Media Trainer
If you don't know anyone who has hired a media trainer, the best way to find one is though a search engine like Google. There’s nothing wrong with getting a quote from a media trainer you like from another province. Trainers usually include travel expenses in their price, which means their total price may be higher than somebody local, but it never hurts to ask.
Try to find three trainers that you like the best from your internet search and ask them for written proposals. Gauge their enthusiasm and see how quickly they respond. If a trainer sends a proposal in two weeks after you’ve asked for one I think you’ve got your answer.
Good luck with your search and your future media training session and if you have any questions, please let me know.