Media Training for the Reluctant Boss

Most PR professionals don’t need a whole lot of convincing when it comes to the value of media training. Rumors of the death of traditional media are greatly exaggerated, and media communicators still need the skills to face off with reporters. But media training isn’t always an easy sell to C-suite executives who must sign off on the expense, and ideally, undergo the training themselves.

We media trainers are always sympathetic when a client has a desire for media training, but an administrator who won’t approve it. PR budgets are tight, and social media has in some cases left the cupboard bare when it comes to funding traditional media strategies.

Fortunately, getting management buy-in for media training is often easier than one would expect. It merely requires PR professionals to exercise some of their strongest media skills: objection anticipation and solid messaging.

Some of the most common concerns:

I never do interviews, so why get the training?

Unless avoiding the media is for some reason endemic to a company’s culture, there’s usually a reason an executive “never does interviews.” And that reason usually has something to do with (a lack of) media skills. It’s a chicken-and-egg quandary that can paralyze the most well-intentioned PR strategy.

But even if media opportunities are rare, it’s important to stress that good media training enhances skills that can be applied in a wide range of communications opportunities beyond interviews. An executive who has undergone media training can use it when communicating with colleagues, reassuring investors, dealing with subordinates, appeasing clients, testifying before regulators or negotiating with a spouse.

I’ve done hundreds of interviews. I don’t need the training.

Certainly, experience plays a role when it comes to conducting effective interviews. But repetition without training limits improvement. Most great musicians end up succeeding not simply because they locked themselves in a bedroom and practiced every day, but because they got guidance –or at least inspiration– from an expert.

Media training these “seasoned” executives can be especially rewarding, as they discover so many things they didn’t realize they didn’t know. And once these execs have formal training to augment all that experience, they have the potential to become truly outstanding media communicators.

I don’t want to pay for media training.

Media training is an essential component of any media strategy. But if there’s no budget for a strategy, then there’s no budget –or need– for media training.

More often, the problem lies in the fact that the existing PR/marketing budget is being dedicated exclusively to advertising and/or social media strategies. In a case such as this, the executive may need a refresher course in ad equivalency, or a reminder that the best social media campaigns co-exist with traditional media strategies, they don’t supplant them.

If media training is ultimately authorized, it is vital that the budget be sufficient for a first-rate training experience. As with all business services, you get what you pay for. Find yourself a bargain-basement coach and your executives may emerge resentful, perhaps even turned off to the idea of doing interviews. On the other hand, quality media training is an investment that reaps dividends long after training day.

I don’t have the time.

Some executives reluctantly acknowledge the value of media training per se, but feel that they personally can’t afford the time to undergo it.

The best strategy to defeat this objection is one of show, not tell. The Internet is replete with terrifying examples of interviews that took disastrous turns because the interviewee didn’t have the time for media training. Assembling a few of these cautionary tales and presenting them to the executive can be one of the most persuasive arguments in favor of finding the time.

But that’s not to say that media training need be particularly time consuming. A quality media coach can do wonders in just three hours, particularly with a C-suite executive who presumably possesses some degree of messaging confidence and communications skill to begin with.

Once the battle is won, it’s always smart to take advantage of the endorsement, even on training day. Notify the rest of the trainees that the boss will be in attendance, even if he/she is only there to introduce the coach and kick off the training. This will increase the likelihood that the rest of the participants show up on time and take the training seriously.

And if all goes well, you won’t have to fight this battle more than once. Executives who witness the benefits of media training first hand usually don’t need to be won over when its time for an annual refresher.