Communications executive: “My CEO has already been ‘media trained.’”
Me: “Glad to hear it. When was that?”
Executive: “Oh, four or five years ago when she first came on board.”
Me: “And you’ve encountered no new issues since then?”
Me: “How has your CEO grown in the job?”
Executive: “She has a much better grasp of our company, our people, and our industry.”
Me: “Tell me how her ability to deliver your company’s messages has grown.”
In order to protect colleagues, this is a composite rather than a verbatim conversation. The point is it is an all too common belief that, once an individual has experienced one communications training workshop, he has accumulated all the knowledge necessary for the remainder of his career.
Think of it this way. Would you entrust your health to a doctor who graduated medical school and called it a day in terms of his ongoing professional development? How about having that veteran accountant do your taxes with the benefit of no added learning since earning that undergraduate degree a few decades ago? I suspect we’d soon see you in the emergency room with an undetected condition or in prison for tax evasion.
So it goes with communicating your company’s messages to your public through the media, in presentations, and before elected officials. A single communications training workshop is inadequate if you don’t implement a follow up plan for learning over time.
How do you make that happen? Try these ideas:
- Plan your training program to ensure your communications efforts support your long-term professional and organizational goals. Yes, you must build your business goals into the planning process for every session, and make sure your internal communications team and your consultant follow through.
- To raise the odds for reaching those important goals, extend your media training education beyond one single day. Set up a system that offers more skill building opportunities, both from your communications training consultant and your internal PR team.
- Make it clear to your spokespeople that ongoing skill sharpening leads to better career options for them.
- Assess the learning style of your spokespeople. Some of us learn best visually, others aurally, still others experientially. Determine how they learn most effectively and concentrate your professional development efforts in that direction. Note that none of these styles are mutually exclusive, so don’t totally ignore books and articles, for instance, even if someone’s style tends toward the visual.
- Refuse to work with communications training consultants who think learning involves only browbeating your executives. Secure a long-term relationship with a consultant who knows how to elicit strengths and help address challenges over the long run.
- Videotape is one of the best lifelong learning tools, so record all exercises during your practice sessions. And don’t let the video gather dust afterward. Suggest that everyone review it occasionally to aid in the ongoing quest for improvement.
- Lastly (ignore this one at your own peril), enlist your CEO in improving your communications training efforts. Emphasize to her the need for your program to support your long-term business success and the career paths of your spokespeople. Your efforts may be doomed without this support from the top.
When you and I have that conversation about your company’s strategic communications needs, I bet it won’t sound like the one above.
What steps have you taken to help ensure a program that features enduring professional development for your executives?