Being asked to prepare a company's spokespeople to deal with the media is a huge honor and it's a big responsibility. One way or another, as a media trainer, your ability (or inability) to coach these people will impact the quality of their company's media coverage, their brand and, to an extent, their professional legacies.
Because there's so much riding on the outcome of your media training program, if you're serious about preparing your executives to deal with the media as effectively as possible, you need to stay away from media training 'tourists'.
A media training tourist is anyone who passes themselves off as a media trainer but who lacks the real-world media relations experience, the media coaching expertise and the passion needed to be able to successfully rewire peoples' brains to teach them to conduct more effective interviews.
It's the consultant who, despite having only minimal experience in the media relations trenches, is put forward by their PR firm as their go-to media trainer. It's the career journalist who got downsized and is using their severance package to subsidize their foray into media training because maybe it looks like fun or they think it will be an easy way to leverage their name recognition and generate revenue. It's the communications consultant who lists 23 different services on their website, with 'media training' being somewhere down the list.
There's no association or body that regulates the media training profession. As a result, the barrier to entry is extremely low. Anyone can grab a camera, slap up a website, say they're a media trainer and - voila - they are one!
I've also heard more than one person this past year refer to media training as a commodity. One of them even said, "If you've seen one media trainer, you've seen them all." Sorry, but that's flat out wrong. In terms of the quality of the training and its impact on your spokespeople, there's a big difference between the top tier coaches and the tourists. And that difference manifests itself in interview missteps, gaffes, lost opportunities, singles or doubles that should have been home runs and dented reputations, both corporate and personal.
If you're searching for a media trainer, do your homework. Go deep. Go beyond the website. How many years have they been in the business. Do they focus on media training as one of their core services? Or is it one of the dozen or more services they offer? Do they have issues/crisis management experience to bring to the table? Have they worked as a journalist? Have they worked on the corporate side in a media relations function? And most importantly, ask them for references. Lots of them. Get names and contact information of clients for whom they've done media training in the past year. The top media trainers will be able to provide you with dozens. A media training tourist will not.
If I'm starting to sound preachy, I want to make it clear that I am in no way trying to tell anyone how to make their living. On the contrary, I believe 100% in the power and the efficiency of the free market. If you want to be a media trainer, a lawyer, a plumber, an engineer, giddy-up! Follow that dream! And on the flip side, any company should be able to hire any provider they choose. After all, it's their time, their money, their choice.
The problem is that media training tourists don't advertise themselves as such. Instead, they present themselves as long-time residents of Media Training Town. And unless you do your homework, it can be tough to tell the difference. In reality, however, what's happening is that the media training tourists are getting their practice in your boardroom with your spokespeople at your expense - not only in terms of time and money - but also the sub-par media relations outcomes that are sure to follow.