Let’s be honest, media training often isn’t included in the annual marketing budget. Even when it is proposed, it often gets cut during the budget approval process. The rationale usually sounds something like this: “If we need it, we will have to spend the money. But we can cross that bridge if and when we get there.” But, oh that bridge! . . . Not to mention all the CEOs and companies that have died on it.
As a communications pro, the decision to “figure it out if and when a crisis comes along” likely makes you very nervous. And with good reason. In reality, for most companies, the question isn’t “if” a crisis will occur, but “when.” Consider this short list of common corporate crises:
*accusations of unethical behavior
*social media attacks
Practice Improves Response Time, Message Delivery and Your Success Rate
When it comes to responding to a crisis via an interview with the media, practice can make the difference between the rise, or the fall, of your company and/or its CEO. And there are plenty of examples to prove it. To be fair, practice improves preparedness, but it never guarantees perfection, of course.
Scenario-based media training helps leaders and spokespeople:
*gain confidence with media interviews;
*build solid skills for responding to even the most difficult questions;
*gain control of message delivery, and
*prevent the dreaded “slow to respond” crisis management failure.
At WHEN + HOW, we guide clients through scenario-based interviewing practice that includes all the rich complexity of a real crisis. Our media training is based on risk identification of the most likely scenarios within the context of our clients’ business. Using realistic scenarios helps build basic skills and techniques, while working through some of the challenges our clients would encounter during a real crisis.
Getting Beyond the Costs of Media Training
Requesting money for a previously unbudgeted activity is never easy. In the case of media training, it can be difficult to fully appreciate the value of media training until you actually need it.
Interestingly, once a crisis strikes, the value proposition suddenly becomes extremely clear. But starting with media training from that point – the crisis point — puts your company and CEO at a major disadvantage.
During a crisis, response time is critical.
When we get called to assist with a crisis, we need to quickly assess how ready a CEO or spokesperson is to make a public statement or participate in an interview. If the individual has previously had competent media training, we are usually halfway there, with basic skills in place. As an analogy, in a high pressure, fast-paced crisis, it’s easier to take a CEO from 30 mph to 60 mph in 60 seconds, than it is to go from 0 to 60. And when a crisis occurs, timing is everything.
When it comes to crisis response, the less a company invests in crisis readiness, the more at-risk it is for mishandling a crisis. Simply stated: practice makes preparedness and preparedness is the foundation of success.
Even with an impressive crisis readiness plan in place, without training and practice, your company remains at risk for poor execution and the high price of recovering from a mishandled crisis.
Let’s take a look at how to get approval for a media training budget. First, start by identifying your goals and doing some research. Talk with your peers about their experiences. Reach out to consultants to gather information and learn about different approaches. Before making the ask, have clear goals and a solid vision for the scope and imperatives of your media training program.
Questions to think about:
What are your goals for media training?
What does an ongoing media training program look like for your specific business?
Who likely needs to be trained?
What is the best sequence, frequency and timing for training? Are there any important business cycles to consider?
Who are some potential media training partners? Would you be comfortable working with these partners in the heat of a crisis?
Second, once you’ve established clear goals, done your research and have a rough idea of costs, make the ask. The ask should include a rough estimate of the costs and a solid rationale for why the expense is necessary. You know your decision maker best – think about how much information to provide at each juncture (first email, follow-up discussions, etc.).Whether in writing or through a conversation with your CEO, here are some helpful, big-picture selling points to keep in mind: A crisis of some scale will eventually happen. The cost to recover from a mishandled response far outweigh the costs of proactive media training.
Media training is an important investment because practice is critical for a successful and timely response. The value, benefits and potential upside of a well-handled crisis more than justify the investment. Every crisis brings as much opportunity for your brand as it does risk.
Finally, if you are still struggling to garner support, there is no shortage of examples of botched media interviews online and case studies that you can share with your decision maker to help convey the importance of practice and preparedness for your company in the heat of a crisis. Frankly, if that doesn’t scare the “check” out of your CEO, we don’t know what will!
Free Template – Request for Media Training Budget Approval
At WHEN + HOW, we help clients at all stages of crisis management: before, during and after. Without question, the optimal time to prepare for a crisis is before one comes along. Media Training is a key component of crisis readiness. To help you get your media training budget approved, we’ve developed this convenient template that you can use for your request.
TEMPLATE – REQUEST FOR MEDIA TRAINING BUDGET
Email subject line: Approval requested – Media Training
Recent high-profile media interviews with CEOs and other spokespersons that have seriously damaged brands and led to executive resignations or terminations have been weighing on my mind. As you know, to save money, we have continually deferred media training to the future. Unfortunately, waiting for a crisis before we invest in media training puts us, and you as the CEO, at an extreme disadvantage.
Given the wide array of potential crises today — data breaches, safety issues, product failures, social media attacks, workplace violence, lawsuits, whistleblower events, facility fires, disgruntled employees, etc. — the question isn’t “if” we have a crisis of some scale, it’s “when.”
Through scenario-based media training, we would have the opportunity to build general media interviewing skills, and gain confidence and control in answering even the most difficult questions related to possible crises. Having solid skills in place is critical for our response time. When a crisis comes along, we could move forward more quickly and prepare to respond to questions specifically related to the crisis, rather than starting with basic interviewing skills. The speed at which we can respond to a crisis impacts our ability to successfully deliver our message and positively influence the outcome.
I am writing to request approval to move forward with adding media training to our crisis readiness program. After conducting research, I have developed a rough estimate (see attached) that includes crisis communication consultants, and all costs associated with both in-person and virtual training sessions. The cost of this investment is small compared to the costs of recovering from a mishandled crisis. An additional benefit of working with crisis experts on media training is that when a crisis comes along, we will already have a knowledgeable, “ramped-up” partner on hand.
I would like to discuss this request, the estimated costs and proposed next steps at your earliest convenience. Please look at your schedule and let me know what works for you.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.