If you’re a business executive, particularly in a privately-owned company, chances have never been lower at any point in your career that you will be interviewed by a journalist.
That’s because there are simply fewer journalists covering less news than ever before. It’s challenging enough to get the stories you want told in the media, never mind actually having to answer questions about them. At the same time, TV news investigative reporting, which used to strike fear in the minds of executives who worried about being ambushed in their driveways, has now shifted focus in many markets to public officials, whose acts of arrogance make them easy targets.
Those factors, coupled with the Great Recession-induced de-emphasis on PR by many public companies, has led to a slowdown in what was once a lucrative and consistent part of the PR business – media training. At one time, firms could charge $1000 on up, per participant, for training sessions that could last 4-8 hours. Many of them would be cookie-cutter lessons in classroom style, with little more than dusting off the playbook time and time again. Clients, acting out of fear of “bad coverage,” would eat it up and pay a premium for it, even including executives far removed from the communications function “just in case.”
But, in recent years, media training has become ground Kona coffee in a 7-11 world.
While leading a modernized media training session for a group of executives last week, it became clear that there is still value in such a session, if done the right way, with respect for the client. Here are a few of the reasons:
-For some organizations, media coverage has waned less than for others. If you are still covered by media or have news coming up, training can still be valuable to prepare for news stories that your executives would actually be a part of. That requires customized training and practice on real-life scenarios, rather than worst-case hypotheticals.
-Costs can be flexible. Firms that do training should base fees on time spent, not on how much money they think they can get away with charging.
-Media training should be message development training. It should also be mindset training. When executives can learn an appreciation for how professional communicators think and work, it can be valuable for the entire organization in its effort to build its brand.
-Learning how to deliver a message via the spoken word is a valuable skill. A good media training session should have value beyond media interviews and can teach executives and spokespeople how to tell the organization’s story via verbal communication.
Like just about everything else in PR, the fundamentals still work, it’s just a matter of how and when they are applied. Media training can still be a valuable part of some communications programs, if media realities and client realities are taken into consideration.