A jack of all trades is a master of none when it comes to high stakes media advice. Here's a few things to consider when you're choosing a trainer.
When it comes to image and reputation, big brands and high-profile individuals trust media trainers and crisis communication coaches will make them more polished performers. But not all trainers are cut from the same cloth.
Here’s five crucial questions to ask yourself when choosing a media trainer or crisis coach for your strategic communications.
Do they have a track record as a journalist?
We believe it’s vital that your trainer has had some journalistic experience. And let’s face it, who understands how newsrooms work, what motivates reporters or what makes news better than a journalist? Only years of interviewing and filing stories on deadline equips a trainer for expert, impartial coaching and sharing tips of the trade. Drill down further, broadcast reporters (radio and TV) are great at spotting a colourful soundbite, while print reporters are trained to examine your content and your argument (while keeping an ear out for a colourful quote or negative language). If getting a soundbite on radio news is your goal, make sure the trainer has broadcast credentials. If demonstrating thought leadership in The Australian Financial Review or the financial trade press is your aim, look for a trainer with a solid background in print, preferably as a business reporter.
Do they have adequate workplace training qualifications?
It’s not enough to just be a journalist – a good trainer must have recognised workplace training and adult learning qualifications. If they don’t have a current Certificate IV in Workplace Training & Assessment they are not trained trainers. A Cert IV means they should know how to plan a session that meets your objectives. Don’t fall for a Master of Training or any other impressive sounding (but probably dodgy) online diploma. And be very wary of anyone claiming to be ‘licenced’ as there is no regulator in this industry.
What is the main focus of their business?
Unless communication training is their core business, they are not specialists. Dig deeper with many so-called media coaches and you’ll find they’re actually PR consultants, spin doctors, actors, writers or former TV personalities. They may provide a valuable service in their field, but a jack of all trades is a master of none. Go with a firm that focuses on media training and crisis communications, with proven frameworks and techniques to support you. If their website offers add-on services like PR support, message development, writing services and the like, think hard about what you’re really getting.
Do they work with my peers and competitors?
This is counter intuitive, but expert media trainers are thin on the ground, so unless they are working with your peers and competitors they are probably not specialist trainers. If a trainer can’t point to recent training work with top 200 companies, leading NGOs and/or government agencies, there’s probably a reason. Don’t take their word for it, do a reference check or two.
Will they tailor training to my needs? The age of ‘one size fits all' media training has gone the way of the dinosaur. Not only is media itself changing rapidly, people come with different backgrounds, different levels of experience and with totally different media ambitions. Not every spokesperson needs to be bullet-proofed for A Current Affair, for instance. Some just need to be prepped for a trade press interview, while others need to be ready for an on-line video interview or podcast. Look for a training partner who not only understands the issues but who can demonstrate a flexible approach to focus on your specific needs – and adapt training on the run - rather than deliver a rigid session.