Opinion: 10 things to consider before hiring a media trainer

by External13 Apr 2016
With HR professionals increasingly being asked to source the media trainer for their spokespeople, how can they ensure the trainer selected is up to the task? Bodine Williams provides 10 key factors to consider.

Media training is an increasingly important investment companies make towards success in the marketplace. To properly prepare, the trainer gains access to your key people and concerns as they assume the role of trusted advisor. Yet, there is no formal accreditation for media trainers. So how do you know if they have the ability to help your spokesperson ace an interview? Here are 10 important points to consider.
 
  1. Has the session been customised to your needs? There are two aspects to the pre-training consultation: first, to set goals for the session and second, to provide the profiles of the people to be trained. Your media coach will study your materials in advance to create a signature experience. One size fits all does not work when your brand is speaking.
 
  1. Who trained the trainer? Some of the best have learned to put clients through the paces while working at top-tier public relations firms. In fact, that’s where media training was born. Spokespeople gained editorial coverage by presenting themselves as industry experts. It’s called earned media vs. paid advertising.
 
  1. How experienced is the trainer? When the stakes are high, experience matters. You will want to know how long they have been a media coach and their knowledge of the most relevant case histories.
 
  1. Does the media trainer have a journalism background? Media training has everything to do with messages; that means using language that resonates with audiences. A trainer who has been a reporter doesn’t have to wonder how words become sound bites or how things are going to play out in the newsroom.
 
  1. You should expect the trainer to flag inconsistences in messages. That’s what a reporter would do. Your company has a story to tell: your spokesperson is not there simply to take questions. (At the same time, spouting talking points regardless of what’s being asked is a poor reflection on your media training.) 
 
  1. What method does the media trainer use? The trainer’s primary job is to confer confidence. That means keeping it simple. Memorizing a trainer’s acronyms and other devices clutter the mind. Media training should not feel like cramming for exams.
 
  1. Does your trainer promise that you will be able to spin or control the media? If so, go to the next name on your list. Subjects do not control the Q&A. What interviewees can control is what they say, which is the point of the training.
 
  1. Does the trainer have a website, blog, or published articles? Trainers who have written on the subject have given thought to what they do. It’s also an opportunity to check out their coaching philosophy.
 
  1. Does your trainer have a master’s degree in psychology? Just kidding. They don’t have to, but you are looking for someone who understands that the Q&A calls for knowledge and emotional intelligence. The trainer must recognise the client’s vulnerabilities in order to focus on the areas that need strengthening.
 
  1.  How do you know if the training was successful? Participants will have a universal grasp of the issues and messages that reflect their best thinking.
 
 About the author

Bodine Williams is a public relations consultant who specialises in crisis communication, issues management and media training. She is a former on-air reporter for Global, NBC, and CTV television networks. Bodine is the former spokesperson and communication lead for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, as well as the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. Her new book Game Face: Mastering the Media Interview, 19 Cautionary Tales was inspired by her work as a senior advisor and media trainer in the New York City offices of Hill & Knowlton and Burson-Marsteller.  
 

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