Going off script with journalists, in front of a live audience or on social media, works just fine if, say, you're a celebrity or politician (or both) who is expected to go off script and wing it, and you routinely benefit from making outrageous and provocative statements. How many senior executives, midlevel employees and new hires at brands fall into that category? We're talking maybe two or three people in the whole country, if that.
Everybody else needs media training in the workplace. This is one of the prime roles PR pros should continue to play—and insist on playing.
As a media trainer, you must command and control the attention of your audience, says Susan Butenhoff, CEO of Access Emanate Communications and director of the global technology practice for Ketchum. The following short checklist of to-do's will lay the groundwork for successful media training sessions you can lead at your company.
- Provide each media training participant a detailed syllabus and schedule of the training 48 to 72 hours in advance of the training.
- Limit class size, ideally to not more than four participants at once. A good rule of thumb is that the newer the company, the fewer the participants, particularly if yours is to be their first media training. Refresher courses with longtime executives or clients may include more participants and require fewer classroom hours.
- Insist on punctuality for your class. This sets an important precedent for real-world interactions with reporters and with other stakeholders. Busy, deadline-driven professionals, reporters and producers may move on to another story if your spokesperson arrives too late for the interview.
- Establish and maintain radio silence for the duration of the training. Insist that participants turn off phones, tablets and other devices that enable communication with the outside world. Your pedagogical effort may be for naught if half your class is checking text messages and/or making phone calls on the sly as you teach.
- Bring lunch into the classroom. Use the lunch break to establish better rapport with participants and answer individual questions that you may not have had time to respond to during the session.
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