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Want to communicate with the media better? Practice, practice, practice

Organizations that want to have effective communicators that can ably deal with the media in the course of normal business as well as in crisis situations should conduct communications training for selected executives annually. These training sessions should help create confidence in organizational spokespeople and induct the ability to deliver messages in all kinds of situations and to a wide variety of audiences. Additionally, it’ll help your spokespeople communicate better with employees as well.

Here are five components we suggest including in a media training session:

1. An overview on how the media operates.

Participants need to understand the types of people who work in the media, what they care about, how they view the world, and what their days are like, so that they come to a better understanding of why reporters and other key external audiences operate the way they do and what to expect when interacting with them.

2. The dos and don'ts when dealing with the media, local government and community officials.

There are some common pitfalls in dealing with key external audiences that can land you into huge trouble if you're unaware of them. This segment of the training should help them understand what to do and not to do when talking to the media or other external audiences. They should also learn about the tricks and tactics the media uses to get spokespeople to open up and share confidential information, and how to counteract them.

3. Strategies for crafting and delivering messages.

An interview is a chance to tell your story in both good times and bad. Participants should learn how to develop core messages and the skills necessary for delivering those messages in the context of an interview, where tough and loaded questions may be coming at them in a flurry.

4. Components of crisis communication.

Participants should learn how to diagnose the different types of crises, the characteristics of a typical crisis and crisis management. It is also important to discuss the role of managers in the crisis communications process, as well as the need to communicate to various internal and external audiences.

5. Mock interviews and critiques.

Each participant should have the opportunity to assess a working crisis or media opportunity specific to their mission and should be required to develop messages for dealing with the media and other external audiences. The interviews should be taped, not necessarily to simulate a television interview, but to provide participants with some feedback on how they answer questions and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. Once the interviews have been taped, they should be replayed and offer commentary on where the participants did well and where improvements might be made.

If you would like to talk more about communications training or set up a training session for your organization, drop me a note or call me at 216-241-3073.

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