Media training. If you’re an entrepreneur or executive, you’ve probably heard the phrase, but you may be unclear on the specifics. Like: Who on the team should get it? What, exactly, is it? And, wait—if I’m not part of the media, why do I even need it?
Before we begin, let’s get that last question out of the way: Despite its name, media training is not actually for the media. It’s for you—or any of your company’s spokespeople who may need to communicate with the media, like your CEO, founders, business heads, or PR staff. And it’s an invaluable experience that will arm your team with the essentials they need to comfortably and effectively engage with the media, whether you’re launching new products, announcing company news, or dealing with a crisis.
Here, we demystify the media training process so you know when to sign up, who to bring, and what to expect.
What Is It?
During a media training session, trainers will generally instruct companies on the best ways to interact with the media, with a focus on garnering positive press coverage. Sessions can be broken down by the type of media you plan on engaging with—i.e., print vs. broadcast vs. online—or it can be taught to address all media platforms.
Who Needs It?
In short: anyone who’s talking to the media. Depending on the size and structure of your company, you may have a single spokesperson or you may have many. Definitely include any execs who may need to communicate on your company’s behalf, as well as your senior PR employees, since they’re the ones dealing with the media on a day-to-day basis.
Try to get everyone into the same training session (or at least trained by the same agency). This will be extremely valuable in ensuring that your messaging and communication tactics are consistent, regardless of which spokesperson ends up on CNBC.
When Should We Get It?
In a word, immediately. Whether you’re already talking to the media, on the cusp of booking your first interviews, or still waiting for the right moment to pitch your target journalists, having training will ensure your externally facing team is prepared for any media opportunities that come your way. If you’ve already had basic media training, it’s always helpful to book a refresher course before a big media interview (hello, New York Times) or external announcement (you’re IPOing!)—or any time you’re dealing with a crisis.
What Should I Expect?
While media training sessions will vary depending on the instructor and your needs, here are a few basic elements you can expect to find in any course:
- A Video Camera: Regardless of whether or not you’re focusing on broadcast media, it’s likely that each spokesperson will be videotaped throughout the session. Usually, the instructor will ask each person to answer a few questions on camera, play the footage back for the group, and discuss which elements worked and which need to be worked on.
- Tough Questions: The unfortunate reality is, any media interview you book is going to contain at least one hairy question you don’t want to answer or one you didn’t see coming—and therefore didn’t prepare how to answer. A large part of the media training session will focus on helping you navigate these types of situations with both real-world messaging tips and easy ways to transition the interview to the topics you do want to talk about.
- Homework: Most media training sessions run for a half or full day and will give you a comprehensive understanding of the best ways to interact with the media. But, practice makes perfect—and you want your team to be media pros before they walk onto the set of the Today Show, right? After the session, have someone on your team take the lead on scheduling internal meetings to continue working on the exercises, and encourage each spokesperson to revisit the learnings individually.
As you look to find a good media trainer, you may wonder if this is just something you and your team can teach one another. The answer to that is, unfortunately, no. It only takes one bad interview for media training to become your biggest priority—so you might as well invest in bringing in the pros now.