Magazine article Communication World

Surviving the Spotlight: Selecting a Media Trainer

Magazine article Communication World

Surviving the Spotlight: Selecting a Media Trainer

Article excerpt

Sadly, as Dow Corning, Exxon, Sears and United Way of America have bitterly learned, more and more executives are finding themselves on the firing line. In fact, as institutions become more complex and come under increasing scrutiny from regulatory agencies and the media alike, odds favor your organization being called upon to respond.

The late Andy Warhol suggested that, like it or not, each of us will have several minutes on the nightly news. Reassuring all your constituencies will probably become a priority, and clearly preparation is the key.

The increased scrutiny has caused an explosion in the demand for media training -- sessions offering techniques and role-playing opportunities to better prepare spokespersons. There also has been a surge of people entering the media training profession, some better than others. Here are some guidelines you can use when selecting a media training firm.

Faculty: Working or ex-journalists are fine, but frequently may not have a public relations perspective of the issues. Look for firms offering teams consisting of journalists and skilled communication professionals, who can work with your in-house communication staff. Teaching backgrounds are also a plus.

Credentials: Ask if the trainers have ever had any articles published on media training, or have been the subject of any stories on the topic. This authenticates their expertise. References are also essential -- call others who have gone through the program and get their impressions.

Compatibility: Make certain their style meshes with your own culture. If your management or spokespersons are combative, look for an organization with a track record in preparing others for hostility. If your people are less confrontational, look for a firm with a more supportive program.

Consistency: With teams of roving trainers at large firms, you run the risk of one day being stuck with a less than satisfactory trainer. Find out who will actually be conducting the sessions, and make sure you're comfortable with that person.

Experience in your field: Ideally, the firm should know the business you're in and be fully conversant with its language, hot buttons and unique qualities. Broader experience in other fields is also essential.

Cosmetics: If television is going to play an important role in your communication strategy, make sure the firm you select is knowledgeable in the medium's cosmetic components such as dress, posture and eye contact. …

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