When should you take on training yourself and when is it better to seek an outside consultant? The inimitable CBS News reporter, anchor and commentator, Eric Sevareid described a consultant as, “any ordinary guy more than fifty miles from home.”
Pretty funny, but with respect to Sevareid, traditional in-house training methods are often not sufficient for responding to today’s media market dynamics. This is where “Knowing a Guy” (or girl, of course) can give your organization an edge by helping you adapt to the post-media relations era in which we now find ourselves. The fact is, we’re in a new media era increasingly flooded by “gotcha” investigative reporting and computer-produced article generation. If you haven’t seen John Oliver’s hilarious “Stoplight” send up regarding the state of media today, take a few minutes to watch it. That video helps explain why we created the Predictive Media Interview model.
In-house professionals have to focus on delivering a product or service or even simply staying current by attending meetings. That provides little time to develop and conduct complex training models and programs. Today, employees and especially executives demand learning be both educational and entertaining, full of variety and ample time for both simulation and application of their new skills in a safe, supportive, unbiased environment. Outsourced training capitalizes on this dual demand by addressing three important features:
- Access to expertise. From a media training perspective, companies may have veteran reporters in house, but they lack a training methodology. During a session for doctors at a large hospital, our trainer (all of our trainers are veteran reporters) asked the doctor a surprise question about moderating food and alcohol intake at holiday parties. The doctor responded, “Well, I tell my patients that I limit myself to 1- 2 drinks at every party.” Our trainer, feigning shock and concern said, “Now, does the hospital know that you have up to 2 drinks a night?” The doctor flushed, staring at our trainer blankly while she waited for the right words to come. Instantly her colleagues in the room started laughing, and the doctor was relieved of the burden of responding on the spot, at least temporarily! If you want a true media interview experience, it helps to have outside expertise able to role play effectively and do so within a curriculum. This is especially true when the training is for higher level executives. Experts from the outside can provide candid and tactful feedback to an executive with little risk. If the executive doesn’t like the feedback, then the consultant can be dismissed with little political fallout. An external trainer allows you to avoid risking your career by having to give uncomfortable feedback to your boss or colleagues who may not welcome you exposing their interviewing skill weaknesses.
- Sticky learning. Hiring an outside training provider allows an organization to focus on its core competencies. Qualified training providers can help organizations align training with key business objectives, like formulating the messages you want to share, and crafting the best facts, figures and stories to complement these messages. Ideally, a training provider will also assist in implementing post–training courses and refreshers, plus support your organization with on-boarding any new employees when needed.
- Cost control. Outside trainers provide proven tools and processes at a fixed price. They should bring the best equipment to simulate a real media interviews, handle all forms of communication before, during and after the training, supply all handouts and training materials, and provide an upfront quote for training services, preventing unseen costs. This process creates maximum value for your training budget. Replicating the time and effort a good consultant has invested in all of these service points is costly for an organization, but consultants have this investment baked in to a cost of doing business. Their pricing is amortized over multiple clients who get the advantage of avoiding sunk costs.
It’s important to note that outsourced training is not the same as outsourced functions. If you are in change of communications at your organization, bringing in outsourced training is not going to outsource your job. Media trainers have a specific purpose, and your organization will appreciate that you are ensuring your spokespeople have the most up-to-date training experiences. Be open, optimistic, and opportunistic when it comes to leveraging the expertise an external trainer can bring to your organization. Working with an outside training professional is a great way to gain access to skills that your company does not currently possess. When you “know a guy”, and take advantage of this strategic alliance, it provides you with a long-term partner, dedicated to the success of your organization.
If your company has attempted to train in-house with limited success, it may be time to reconsider a training and development approach that leverages outside consultants with state-of-the-art training methods. Look for consultants who have proven models, and curriculum suited for every type of learning style.