More than Talking Pretty

One of the hardest things to get across about communications training is how it feeds into the end game. A good program means more than learning how to talk to reporters, deliver presentations, or offer persuasive Congressional testimony.

While all those things are important, every one of those communications efforts feeds into (or at least should feed into) a larger objective. It may be a public policy goal, a desire for more sales, a shinier reputation, or any number of other possibilities.

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Often, when I get a call about a project, the prospective client says something like, “We have a new product, and our key spokespeople need media training.” That’s a good start. But it is sometimes difficult to shift the conversation to the larger, more meaningful focus. In this case, that might be something like, “Our company’s reputation and its financial well-being demand a successful launch.”

Here are some other examples:

  1. What I hear: “Our CEO has never had media training and needs to be better in front of the press.”
    What the conversation is actually about: The big guy blew a recent interview that took the company’s stock price down a peg or two. Our future success depends on his ability to sharpen his communications edge.
  2. What I hear: “Our production team will be delivering a series of presentations to key audiences, and they need to improve their public speaking skills.”
    What the conversation is actually about: We recently experienced a problem with our manufacturing process that left our customers in the lurch. We have fences to mend in order to continue meeting our revenue projections.
  3. What I hear: “Our messaging needs some work.”
    What the conversation is actually about: Every time we go up against the competition, we get our brains beat in. Our people don’t know what to say or how to say it. As a result, we keep losing accounts and misfiring on our sales targets.
  4. What I hear: “Can you work with our president before he testifies before a Congressional Committee?”
    What the conversation is actually about: We’ve been fighting this public policy battle for years and the key Congressional committee has finally decided to hold hearings on the issue. We’ll be set back forever if we miss this opportunity.

Why is this important? I’m going to assume that you are not in the business of churning out flawless communicators. Your organizational purpose is likely loftier than that. So start with your goals, then decide how and when communications training fits in. Yes, it’s an important part of your plan. Just make sure you are holding it at the right time with the right consultant.

Here is my suggestion to you. The next time you consider communications training, be clear about why you are doing it. There has to be more than making your executives talk pretty. This crucial communications endeavor must mesh with your overall business goals. In fact, if you cannot tie your training to such goals, you are wasting precious budget dollars.

 

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