Is your media trainer qualified? Here’s how to make sure the media training expert you select knows the score.
We hope you’ll select The Pincus Group, of course, but regardless of whom you select for your media training, here are some criteria to help you make the right choice:
PICK A MEDIA TRAINER WHO HAS WORKED IN THE MEDIA
Sounds simple enough, but don’t assume your trainer has real world experience. Some so-called “media trainers” have never set foot in a newsroom. Some have backgrounds in public relations, sales, marketing or even entertainment—but if the best experience your trainer has is coming in contact with reporters—find another trainer. Interacting with the media is a ‘full contact’ sport, often with much at stake. There are good, qualified media trainers available: trainers who come to training after a career in journalism. Find one, and you will find a trainer who knows the real story about what you’ll need to deliver a successful, powerful interview.
DON’T PICK A MEDIA TRAINER WHO HAS ONLY WORKED IN THE MEDIA
Finding a media trainer with real media experience is essential, but don’t stop there. Your trainer simply has to have experience working on the other side of the fence to be truly effective. That’s because reporters are famously unconcerned about the consequences of their stories. Contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority are not advocates and simply don’t care whether you’re harmed or helped as a result of their story. As the interviewee, of course, you care a great deal. That’s why it’s important to be sure your media coach understands both worlds, the media’s perspective and yours, as the subject of media interest. Find a trainer with at least some experience in advocacy communications, either as a spokesperson or in some other role. You want a trainer with knowledge of the practical tools of media interaction: messaging and positioning. Don’t engage a media trainer who has never dealt with those tools or with the aftermath of a media interview gone wrong.
BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
The largest public relations and management training firms say they offer media training in their portfolio of services. They do, after a fashion. Media training is a special expertise however and one few large firms invest in. If you choose a big firm, make sure you check the credentials of the person slated to do your training. Dig deep to assure yourself the trainer is a seasoned media professional—someone with advocacy and media experience—not just a member of the account team or a trainer who has only watched reporters at work.
EXPERIENCE COUNTS, BUT NOT ALL EXPERIENCE COUNTS EQUALLY
Look for a media trainer who is a good match for your specific needs. If you’re preparing for print interviews only, a media trainer with experience limited to the broadcast media won’t be the best choice. If television interviews are on your agenda, make sure your trainer understands that TV reporters aren’t just print reporters who use pictures. If you’re playing in the big leagues, don’t assume your trainer understands the very rough and tumble world of the major markets. Find a trainer with the expertise you need for the types of media encounters you specifically want to prepare for: from small markets to the majors, from trade papers to general interest. ASK if your trainer is experienced in preparing for live remotes as well as taped interviews, ambush interviews as well as press conferences.
FIND A MEDIA TRAINER YOU CAN TRUST AND THEN TRUST THEM
If dealing with the media were easy, there’d be no need for media trainers. In reality, even those who interact with the media regularly can get into trouble over something they said or didn’t say to a reporter. It takes time and effort to move from basic techniques to the delivery of really powerful, effective interviews and the confidence to know the difference. Stay away from any media coach who promises you’ll be ready to take on “60 Minutes” after an hour of their “coaching”. If you don’t have internal staff to help keep you on track with new skills, make sure your trainer is available for follow-up help. An effective trainer builds confidence through positive reinforcement and honest and direct feedback. He or she has to be experienced enough to identify your needs, and confident enough to guide you toward real improvement. A good media trainer is like a good reporter: professional, tough, and fair (even if you hope they’re not staying for dinner).
CHECK FOR RESULTS
This is not an academic exercise: results count. Ask for references. Choose a media trainer the way you’d choose your doctor—do some homework. After all, this is the professional who will help you maintain the health of your reputation and the success of your career.
Aileen Pincus is a former local and national television reporter and p.r. executive who now leads her own Washington D.C. area firm, training public and private executives in the art of communications..