Why You Should Media Train Your Staff
When you onboard new employees, it usually looks something like this: You give them a handout of company policies, sometimes you ask them to sign non-disclosure agreements, and, you train them on the expected ways to do their jobs.
Then you leave them to their own devices to determine how to communicate with the rest of the world.
This might not seem like a big deal at first, but as many corporations have discovered in our hyper-connected world, where normal people have their emails and correspondence leaked, you could be leaving your company vulnerable to exposing something you weren’t ready to.
The best solution? Media training.
Media training is a method of explaining how to deal with press and outsiders while maintaining the discretion of your company and reinforcing company points of views. Media training can help your team avoid gotcha moments and pitfalls in communicating information.
Social media has fundamentally changed the game for companies, and many have adapted to this new reality in their official channels. Major mistakes still happen, though less frequently than in years past. The problem is that odds are every single employee you have likely has some social media presence, and he or she may unwittingly disclose information or vent feelings about your company in a way that causes real problems for you.
How to Determine Who to Media Train
Start with the usual suspects: your executive team, sales team, and anyone who regularly is in the public eye or speaks to press. Then look to people in the company who fit these criteria (they don’t have to hit every point).
- Work in customer care?
- Have regular dealings with outside vendors?
- Liaise regularly with contract workers or workers in satellite offices?
- Travel regularly?
- Have a blog or other social media presence they post regularly to?
- Attend conferences regularly or speak on the company’s behalf?
All of these people should be media trained.
What to Focus on When Media Training
Historically, media training was mostly about how to think on one’s feet when asked a direct question from media, and how to avoid being put on the spot by an interviewer. These are still great, indispensable skills, but your training will need to go further.
You will need to educate these teams on the basics of email disclosures, social media skills, and generally not leaving digital “paper trails.” You will need to train your staff on what to do if there is a Twitter storm surrounding your company and your team is targeted.
You will also need to design and train your team on when and how to hand over questions to an authorized representative. These are plausible scenarios every company faces, but that good companies plan for (remember, people might not remember an ad hoc piece of advice in a high stress situation) – make sure the company’s protocols are well documented and readily available anywhere online to staff (and also, outfit your team with hard copies of these protocols that they should keep at their desk).
There is an optional module you may want to include in your media training, and that is whether you wish your employees to not disclose ties to the company online in biographies or profile information. The answer to this will be different for every company. A news station is going to have a different approach to this than an oil company.
Once you have your approved training modules, make sure you train everyone and that they sign a document indicating they have completed the training. Keep this document in their human resources folder.
Employ a Triage Plan and Messaging Matrix
It’s always better to be prepared in the moment with tools that are easy to access and use right away. For this reason, you should have two critical documents in your training modules: a triage plan, and a messaging matrix.
The triage plan tells your staff who to call when a certain situation happens, and how to properly escalate situations in flux.
A messaging matrix gives your team the written tools they can use to answer questions immediately or if a point person is not available, or to tide over press or social media until a point person is available. Consider many diverse situations to plan against. Look to real-world examples to gird against.
Media training can seem like an expensive or time-wasteful activity, but if you can save your company from ever having to employ crisis PR, or if you can prevent a situation from getting out of hand or going viral in the mainstream media, you’ve already gotten ahead of the game. It’s important to have your team aligned on messaging, and media training is a simple way of achieving this goal and making it stick with staff.