Media Training in Stages: Creating a Map of Ongoing Improvement

A few weeks ago I wrote about the concept of “Media Training in Stages”—an approach that supports the view that an effective professional development program involves more than a one-off workshop.

In previous articles, we discussed the importance of messaging and the value of simulated exercises in any media training workshop. Today we’ll examine another key element: Creating a map that leads to sustained improvement.

Map girl

Many media training workshops focus extensively on simulated exercises and some emphasize messaging. It has been my observation over many years, however, that ongoing improvement gets short shrift.

Why? There is a variety of reasons:

  1. The company has no organized professional development program relative to communications.
  2. All they want is a quick one-and-done workshop so they can say they checked the media training box.
  3. The executives who participate in the workshop think they are too busy to pay sustained attention to their communications skills.
  4. The internal staff the bears much of the load for ongoing message and skill sharpening is under-equipped.
  5. The communications training consultant doesn’t really care about long-term value.
  6. It’s not part of the marketplace’s media training culture.

Let’s take a look at these factors and show you how to address them.

Lack of a professional development program

This is an internal struggle that demands an assertive communications or government relations department. Most companies of any size have dedicated budget dollars to employee learning. Sometimes communications fails to get its share of the pie. How can you fight for inclusion? Make the case that reputation matters. Find examples of how a media campaign aided another firm (or a lack of media presence damaged another). Develop internal champions in the C-suite who will go to bat for you. Utilize your communications consultants to help you.

Checking the Media Training Box

It happens in some organizations. Someone high in the pecking order has mandated that media training take place after a poor performance in front of the camera by one of your spokespeople. It’s left in the hands of a harried or inexpert communications staff to make it happen. No one has a real stake in the outcome. They just want to be able to check that to-do box. If you sense this happening in your business, suggest that the powers that be undertake a serious search for a reputable consultant. “A Buyer’s Guide to Communications Training Consultants” can help. In fact, why not forward a copy to the individual leading your search.

Executives Who Think They Are Too Busy

Your communications training consultant should be able to bear much of the load here. Once your executives have undergone a media training workshop, they may believe that all of their skill sharpening has to take place in a formal setting. Not so. For example, I encourage my clients to take advantage of those spare moments before meetings and casual hallway encounters as practice opportunities. Review your notes and messaging when you gain “found time,” even if it’s just 10 minutes. Ask colleagues to pepper you with questions on random occasions. To be sure, a solid professional development plan will encompass added formal workshops every so often. Just remember, not everything needs to be that official.

An Under-equipped Staff

Your company’s communications staff may be really smart yet inexperienced. Or they may not be up to the job (hey, it happens; everybody’s gotta work somewhere). The hard truth is you must figure out a way to work around them. Your messaging and spokesperson development is too important. With a subpar staff, you run the risk of damaging your reputation. Your communications training consultant should be able to pick up some of the slack, but you also need to bring on board a capable staff. If they are bright but naive, invest in their professional advancement–quick. If they are hopeless (and I realize this sounds harsh, but your organizational goals are at play), get rid of them and hire more experienced hands.

Your Consultant Doesn’t Care

Some communications training consultants prefer one-off sessions. One training consultant I know is very open about this. He is really top notch and I’ve learned a lot from him over the years, but he doesn’t like extended engagements. He is open about the fact that he doesn’t want to see those executives ever again. I disagree. I’d much rather guide someone to improvement over the long run. It advances both your company and their career. Make sure you clarify this issue with your prospective consultant before signing on the dotted line.

The Marketplace’s Media Training Culture

This has been a continuing source of frustration during my nearly 20 years in business. Media training is sometimes viewed as a commodity. I have long tried to swim against this tide yet admit to having little success. Oh, there are occasional victories with certain clients, but overall it’s a tough battle. Big marketplace; small me. Your ideas for combating this view are most welcome. Please chime in below.

What factors do you see as missing? What, in your experience, keeps your executives from pursuing a well-thought-out, sustained media training program?



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